GOP leaders locking up support to stay atop caucus

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The top GOP leaders in the House are moving quickly to lock down their posts next year, after an unexpectedly successful election night.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) formally announced his candidacy in a letter Wednesday afternoon and has all but secured enough votes to remain atop the conference for another two-year term. McCarthy’s top deputy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), confirmed in an interview he also intends to seek reelection to his post. The Louisiana Republican is expected to send out a “Dear Colleague” on Wednesday seeking support from colleagues.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican, has been calling members in the conference and lining up support to run again for GOP conference chair, according to members and aides. And Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) is making a bid to chair the House GOP’s campaign arm for another cycle. He also has been dialing up members and locking down votes, members and aides say. The leadership elections are slated for Nov. 17.

Even as the battle for the White House continued to slowly unfold amid a scramble to count votes and control of the Senate remains unknown, McCarthy and the top Republicans are expected to hang on to their jobs after GOP candidates toppled seven Democratic incumbents, defying most projections that Democrats would pad their House majority even further. So far, not a single House Republican has lost their seat, though Democrats remain in control of the House.

“Having been a part of the last successful Republican takeover of the House, I firmly believe this conference has what it takes to earn back the majority,” McCarthy said in his letter, obtained by POLITICO. “More than that, I am a fighter and I do not quit on my team or on our shared goals. That is why I am running to serve as Republican Leader and humbly ask for your support.”

Tuesday’s night results were a shock even to high-ranking Republicans. Before Election Day, the party leadership privately believed they could lose as many as 10 seats, and some pundits had them losing twice that number. Instead, they picked up some seats, led by women and minority candidates.

“It was much better than what everybody was predicting,” said Scalise. “Instead of a 10 seat loss, it could be 10 seat gain.”

Republicans are also poised to add nearly a dozen women to their depleted ranks after a record-breaking recruitment effort, with more races still too close to call. Both the NRCC, as well as outside groups such as Rep. Elise Stefanik’s E-PAC, made closing the gender gap a top priority this cycle.

Notably, female GOP candidates won in some of the toughest races in the country and were responsible for flipping six seats. Republicans say those candidates’ success should serve as a playbook for how to win back the House in 2022.

“It was a huge, smashing success … The story of the night is the success of women at the ballot box,” Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said. “Republican women are majority makers. And we have a model that’s worked.”

Stefanik, who built a national profile during Trump’s impeachment, has been previously floated for a leadership post. But Stefanik told POLITICO she has no interest in running for leadership and will be supporting both Cheney and Emmer in their reelection bids.

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