Newt Gingrich: McCarthy will be hard to beat

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who rose through the House as a whip, said Kevin McCarthy's relatively easy expected rise to majority leader is a testament to the power of having an extensive political operation already in place – and McCarthy’s affable personality.

“Unless you’ve been out there organizing for a long time, it’s hard to beat somebody who has been counting votes for years and knows the entire conference,” Gingrich said of the California Republican. “Legislative bodies reward friendliness.”

Gingrich said McCarthy's lengthy list of phone numbers and his understanding of the House's factions gave him a significant head start.

“Before Cantor resigned, McCarthy had 35 deputy whips he could call and say, ‘Hey guys, I’m running,’ and probably 32 of them said, ‘I’m for you.’ That got him started and gave him momentum,” he said.

Once House Republicans saw McCarthy nearing a majority, they scrambled to be with a winner. “Every leadership race is really close until you win," Gingrich said. "The second you get to 51 percent, everyone seems to say, ‘I’m with you,’ since there is no real advantage to not be with you.”

McCarthy, who helped craft the House GOP’s election “pledge” in 2010, is “very much ideas oriented,” Gingrich added.

“He’s very aware of the need to aggressively build a majority. He’s sympathetic to the attitude of the tea party but knows the party needs to outflank and beat President Obama instead of running straight at him in a self defeating way.”

Robert Costa is a national political reporter at The Washington Post.
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