How to become a party leader, in 15 pictures

Today, House Republicans will choose a new majority leader -- and likely a new majority whip too. Ever since Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor lost his primary two weeks ago, ambitious representatives have been busy polishing their resumes, and everyone else in town has been questioning their qualifications. However, one important part of the majority leader and majority whip job description has not been discussed in enough detail. Do the candidates excel at standing in the corner of photographs? And yes, we kid. But only sort of. And you -- and we -- need something to do before the results of the votes get announced later this afternoon, right?


House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., center, and Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, after a Republican Conference meeting. Commenting on problems with the troubled health care system in the Department of Veterans Affairs, Boehner said, "We have a systemic failure of an entire department of our government." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As House majority leader or whip, being the guy (or gal) standing next to the man (or woman) is not an insignificant part of your job. And sometimes the action in the foreground leaves you looking kind of silly. And you can't do anything about it.


House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., holds a copy of a proposal to repeal the Health Care Bill, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011, during news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Sometimes you get the spotlight in the background.


WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (L) answers questions during a press conference following a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the U.S. Capitol May 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. Speaker Boehner and other Republican leaders spoke on Edward Snowden and the U.S. economy during their remarks. Also pictured is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) (R). (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

But that's the best you can hope for.


WASHINGTON, DC- NOVEMBER 30: (L-R) After meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House for a bicamerial meeting GOP leadership speaks to media on Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), soon be Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), and soon to be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Tuesday, November 30, 2010. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Sometimes it's hard not to look like the world is ending when you have to stand in the background all the time.


Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Va., left, listens AS House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, to discuss the Massachusetts Senate election. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

It's probably a good thing that Cantor is retiring. He was getting jaded about his role as Very Important Background.


House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, speaks during a news conference with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Based on this test, which of the House majority leader candidates looks like they have what it takes to replace Cantor? Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is unquestionably the most qualified representative when it comes to being a background to Boehner. Look at his expert photobombing in this picture. You can barely see him!


J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press

Sometimes he likes to up the metaphorical power of his role by literally standing in the shadows.


House Speaker John Boehner speaks at Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, as House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, left, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., listen. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

When the Speaker laughs, you laugh.  Those are the rules.


House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, reacts with humor after going to the microphone expecting a reporter's question which was actually directed to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., Wednesday, Oct. 12,2011, during a news conference following a GOP strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington. At left is Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

There is one other contender in the majority leader election: Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho. His background modeling skills have not been honed quite as well as McCarthy's. (He's the second guy from the right -- the guy standing next to Ted Cruz -- in case you are wondering.)


Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, center, takes a question at a news conference with conservative Congressional Republicans who persuaded the House leadership to include defunding the Affordable Care Act as part of legislation to prevent a government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. From right to left are Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As a person on the edges of political power, it is important not to look like you are scheming to take over the person in front of you. Subtlety is key.


Sen. Rand Paul, right, a potential presidential candidate, makes time for a brief media visit at Jackson's Jet Center in Boise with Rep. Raul Labrador while the two were on their way to the Idaho Republican Convention in Moscow, Idaho, Friday, June 13, 2014. (AP Photo/The Idaho Statesman, Darin Oswald) LOCAL TV OUT (KTVB 7)

If McCarthy wins the majority leader race, coasting in on his superior photo op qualifications, the House will need to elect a new majority whip to replace him. There are even more people trying to prove their "standing in the background" credentials in this race. There is Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, chair of the Republican Study Committee.


WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 8: (L-R) Members of Republican Study Committee, Congressmen James Lankford (R-OK), Steve Scalise (R-LA), Steve Southerland (R-FL), Dave Camp (R-MI) and Jim Jordon (R-OH) talk about the present war on poverty and job creation, on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's speech announcing the "unconditional war on poverty in America", on Capitol Hill Wednesday, January 8, 2014. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

... Illinois Rep. Pete Roskam.


WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) (C), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) (L), Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) (2nd L), Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) (4th L), and House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) arrive at a news conference March 21, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Rep. Cantor and other House Republicans held a news conference to unveil the "Small Business Tax Cut Act of 2012." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

... and Rep. Marlin Stutzman.


WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Congressman Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) is asked questions by reporters at he enters the Republican Conference candidates' forum a day before the upcoming House leadership vote, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Wednesday June 18, 2014. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Wait. He's front and center in that photo! It's incredibly hard to find a good "standing in the background" photo of Stutzman. He is either such a good stealth background stander that he is never mentioned in the caption, or he's not even made it to "standing behind the people with power" status yet. As you can guess, it's going to be a tough race. Meanwhile, Cantor is trying to re-acclimate to a new role in the center of photos, before disappearing from them completely. Political photography is a cruel world.


U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) leaves after a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington in this June 11, 2014, file photo. Cantor took to the airwaves on June 15, 2014, to try to rebuild his political reputation after a stunning primary election loss that has shaken the Republican Party, and refused to rule out a future run for public office. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/Files

 

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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