The GOP civil war infects 2016 – Politico


The internal struggle that helped doom Boehner now bleeds into the presidential race.

Within minutes of John Boehner’s announcement, John McCain was pleading for a GOP cease-fire.

“Let’s stop fighting with each other,” the former presidential candidate and now symbol of mainstream Republicanism said during a visit to a conservative gathering Friday. “Let’s sit down together and work out our differences with a common agenda to elect the next president of the United States, keep our majorities in the House and Senate, and put the brakes on this internecine strife.”

But a truce is not on the conservative agenda, either in Congress or on the presidential campaign trail.

Boehner’s surprising decision on Friday to resign sparked widespread celebration within the conservative movement. When Marco Rubio announced the speaker’s retirement from the stage at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, activists whooped and hollered in approval. “What a great day for America,” David Bossie, president of Citizens United, gushed.

Movement leaders and activists see the downfall of the House speaker as a coup that’s been years in the making — and one whose momentum they hope will now yield not only more rigidly conservative leadership in Congress but also a Republican presidential nominee who is one of their own. The GOP civil war, in other words, is raging as much on the 2016 stage as it is in Washington.

“The message is being sent to the candidates that voters—conservative voters—want a fighter,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and its political arm, which sponsored the conservative summit. Perkins noted that Rubio’s announcement of Boehner’s departure was “probably the biggest applause line” of the day.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey showed the depth of anger at the congressional Republican leadership. Fully 80 percent of Republican primary voters who called themselves very conservative or talk-radio listeners said they were dissatisfied with Boehner and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.

Several in the 2016 field are jockeying for that mantle of anti-Washington conservative movement leader.

“I’m angry,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.“Republicans aren’t doing anything different in the majority as they were doing in the minority.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal used his speech to call on McConnell to follow Boehner and step down.

Even Rubio, who many see as a potential alternative to Jeb Bush among more establishment-friendly Republicans, sought to appeal to that huge segment of the angry-with-Washington electorate. Though Rubio said he wasn’t “here to bash” Boehner, the Florida senator said, “The time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leaders.”

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