- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rep. Roy Blunt yesterday claimed he has enough votes to be elected the next majority leader of the House of Representatives.

“I’ve counted a lot of votes in my seven years in the whip’s office, and this was a well-fought fight on all sides,” Mr. Blunt said in a statement headlined, “Blunt crosses finish line.”

Though he said he has the public and private support of a majority of House Republicans, he has released only 84 names of those willing to go public with their support, and his opponents said a lot can change before the secret-ballot election Feb. 2.

“This will be a long campaign,” said Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, Mr. Blunt’s main competitor. Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona jumped into the race Friday, nearly a full week after the other two men began their campaigns for the leader’s post vacated by Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas.

All three men are expected to appear today on “Fox News Sunday.”

To win, a candidate must capture a majority of the 231 Republican representatives. Luis Fortuno, the Republican delegate from Puerto Rico, does not have a vote on the floor, but is allowed to vote on party conference matters.

Claims of support haven’t always translate into votes behind closed doors.

Paul Weyrich, a conservative activist and founder of the Free Congress Foundation, said that when he helped then-Rep. Newt Gingrich in the 1989 whip’s election, Mr. Gingrich told him he had a six-vote margin going into the election, but he won by only two votes.

In 2001, when Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California ran against Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland for Democratic whip, they claimed 225 supporters between them — out of just 215 available votes.

Mr. Boehner said that if Mr. Blunt is so certain of his count in the leader’s race, he should give up his position as the majority whip and follow Mr. Shadegg’s example. On Friday, Mr. Shadegg gave up his post as Republican Policy Committee chairman to enter the race.

Mr. Boehner also challenged Mr. Blunt to put forth a package of reforms.

“Members of our conference are also entitled to know where and how their next majority leader intends to lead,” he said. “As of today, I remain the only candidate for the office who has offered a detailed leadership plan and vision for the future of our majority and the reforms we must unite to enact.”

Mr. Blunt yesterday acknowledged the need to push for reform, but has not matched Mr. Boehner’s 37-page manifesto.

“Our reform-minded majority will regain the trust of the American people and promote the common-sense principles of smarter, not bigger, government that is accountable to the people who send us here,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, who remains publicly uncommitted in the race, said Friday that even if Mr. Blunt claimed a majority, the race would continue.

He said Mr. Shadegg’s entry would stir things up.

“He will help the others actually get their reform plans out,” Mr. Flake said. “Shadegg doesn’t have the network and the machine they do, so Shadegg has to rely on, ‘Here’s what I stand for,’ and that approach will tend to draw the others out of their policy cocoon.”

He said that Mr. Shadegg’s bid will affect Mr. Blunt the most because, as a member of the current leadership, he is the least likely to want a big shake-up.

“It’s going to be tough for Blunt to remain silent on the policy with somebody like Shadegg in there,” Mr. Flake said.

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