The first rule of leadership races, it’s often said among the few people who have experience waging power struggles at the top of the congressional food chain in the most powerful country on earth, is that he who who gets in early wins.
In taking out the sitting chief deputy whip in a single ballot victory, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) showed a head-start of even a few hours can provide a crucial edge.
When Randolph-Macon economics professor David Brat stunned the political world in toppling Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a June 10 primary election, Scalise sprung into action.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), meanwhile, waited out of deference to Cantor, who didn’t announce he was resigning until the next day and might have tried a desperate write-in bid to come back from the political grave.
“Speed kills in leadership races. [Scalise] got to 100 very quickly. And then it was just a matter of him picking up a few votes every day,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), a top vote counter for Roskam.
Even before Cantor’s shocking loss, Scalise had already been laying the groundwork to take on Roskam. A series of news stories, including at Breitbart, had talked up the would-be race. And inside the Scalise office at the Republican Study Committee which he chaired, it was obvious to everyone who worked there he had his sights on leadership and was using the conservative caucus group as a stepping stone.