Republican New School Flexes Clout Ahead of November

Democrats aren't the only incumbents in trouble this November. With a crop of feisty, fresh-faced conservatives making noise in the House and a wave of Tea Party-backed newcomers determined to join them, senior Republicans could have a mutiny on their hands.

The gap between the old and new schools of the GOP has become apparent as Election Day nears and polls show Republicans increasingly likely to pick up seats -- lots of seats.

Election guru Larry Sabato, at the University of Virginia, released new projections showing a possible 47-seat GOP pickup in the House. Gallup's latest generic poll showed Republicans with a 10-point lead over Democrats in the fall, the largest gap in 68 years.

The opportunity for a shakeup is ripe, but so is the opportunity for a makeover of the Republican Party itself.

"The Republican caucuses in the Senate and the House will change," Democratic strategist Kiki McLean said. "A dangerous place for Republicans to be is establishment leadership."

Establishment leadership likely were not thrilled to read about the contents this past week of the upcoming book being published by self-proclaimed "Young Guns" Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy -- three ambitious young members of Congress who've been heading up recruitment of other like-minded wunderkinds for the party.

Their book, "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders," is due out Sept. 14 -- a blueprint for America in the same vein as the policy book then-Sen. Barack Obama's campaign released in 2008, only with the opposite prescriptions.

A summary in based on an advance copy said House Republican Leader John Boehner is mentioned just three times in the book. House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind., is not mentioned at all, and other heavyweights like Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are similarly disregarded.

A promotional video paid for by Cantor's political committee, set to inspiring music, looks like an introduction for the starting lineup of an Olympics dream team. The video bluntly depicts the authors as a different kind of dream team -- the future of the Republican Party.

"There is a better way and a new team is ready to bring America back," the narrator says.

Ryan, R-Wis., has attracted considerable attention in the Obama years as the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee. He's considered the policy wonk of the lot and played a big role laying out the economic argument against the health care overhaul at the height of that debate. He's also put out his own economic recovery blueprint, which he calls "A Roadmap for America's Future."

Both he and McCarthy, R-Calif., were named in a recent list of the top five most powerful House Republicans compiled by GQ magazine. (The list intentionally excluded those in leadership positions.) The list also included Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the oversight committee Republican notorious for pursuing investigations into whatever bothers him -- and more importantly, bothers Democrats.

The three "Young Guns" lawmakers lead a program of the same name through the Republican National Congressional Committee that identifies and supports select conservative candidates.

Boehner and Cantor, the House GOP whip, denied friction between them in an interview with Fox News in July following a report that suggested Cantor posed an upstart challenge to Boehner's command.

"This is nothing but high school gossip kind of reporting," Cantor said at the time.

"We work very well together," Boehner said, acknowledging differences.

Cantor also has said publicly that he would support Boehner for speaker if Republicans seize the majority.

A GOP leadership aide said Boehner is not worried.

The Republican leader has stayed consistently visible and relevant in recent weeks, driving debate during the congressional recess and challenging the Obama administration.

When Vice President Biden delivered a speech touting the stimulus last month, Boehner used his address that day to call for President Obama to fire his economic team. Other Republicans have since echoed that demand.

And before Obama delivered his Oval Office address Tuesday marking the end of combat operations in Iraq, Boehner delivered an Iraq war address before the American Legion convention in Milwaukee. He called for the president to avoid "arbitrary deadlines" for withdrawal in Afghanistan, something other Republicans repeated after Obama delivered his speech.

But sitting lawmakers aren't the only ones who could be waiting in the wings.

Some of the most prominent voices in the Republican Party this season are on the campaign trail, several on the Senate side -- Republican Senate nominee Marco Rubio in Florida, Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul in Kentucky and Republican Senate nominee Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.

Chip Saltsman, former campaign manager for 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, cited all three conservatives in describing the new face of the GOP.

"We're seeing a different type of candidate," he said, noting that the resounding theme of their campaigns is fiscal conservatism, government restraint and job creation. "The country's just about had enough and I think that's why you're going to see a new face of Republican politics out there, and it's one of fiscal control."

He said candidates like Paul and Rubio would "lead that charge" in November.

Dozens of new Republicans could enter on the House side. McLean said the changing makeup could pose a serious problem for sitting Republican leaders.

"The most endangered incumbent this year is really John Boehner, the House Republican leaders, because I think as you see a lot more of the Tea Party candidates come into their caucus, when they go to their leadership elections, they're not going to stand with establishment leadership," she said.