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Challenge to Kevin McCarthy Is a Biggs Joke
A backbencher from Arizona launches a preposterous effort to become speaker.
By Karl Rove, WSJ
Dec. 14, 2022 5:35 pm ET
In her early years in the California Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi saw a lot of the legendary “Big Daddy” of Golden State politics, Assembly Speaker and later State Treasurer Jesse Unruh. A colorful pol, he famously declared that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Mrs. Pelosi took that lesson to heart and developed a fearsome reputation as a fundraiser, drawing hundreds of millions from Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street. She even scored $20,000 from Donald Trump to help flip the House in 2006—Democrats’ first victory in that chamber after 12 years in the minority. She repeated that feat in 2018. But then Republicans began beating her at her own game.
While her House Majority super PAC raised an astonishing $160 million for 2020 and $181 million for 2022, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a former sandwich shop owner from California’s Central Valley, raised even more. He collected $166 million in 2020 and $260 million in 2022 for his Congressional Leadership Fund PAC. That financial edge was critical to hard-fought GOP victories in places such as New York, California and Oregon, without which Republicans wouldn’t have won the majority.
Mr. McCarthy did even more. Every House Republican is given an “assessment”—an amount to raise for the National Republican Congressional Committee—based on seniority and committee assignments. As minority leader, Mr. McCarthy had the largest assessment, at $30 million, or 24% of the NRCC’s $126 million midterm target. He easily exceeded that goal, raising more than $46 million for the NRCC to help the committee smash its target with $184 million raised for it by members. Mr. McCarthy went further, transferring another $7.5 million from his campaign and leadership PACs to the NRCC. He then sent from his own campaign and through joint fundraising committees another $12 million to GOP incumbents and almost $7 million to Republicans challenging Democrat-held seats, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
Without Mr. McCarthy’s herculean efforts, Republicans wouldn’t have picked up 14 seats two years ago and another nine this year. Money isn’t everything in politics, but victory is definitely harder without it. The House GOP leader made certain his side had the dollars to win.
Yet some Republicans want to replace Mr. McCarthy as speaker with Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs. Mr. Biggs’s 2022 NRCC assessment was $275,000, or 0.2% of the NRCC’s target budget. He came up short by more than $101,000. By comparison, one Texas freshman Republican, Tony Gonzales, had the same assessment and raised $2.2 million. Another Texas freshman, August Pfluger, with a $175,000 goal, raised $1.9 million. All in all, of the 209 House Republicans given assessments, Mr. Biggs was No. 170, ranked by share of goal raised. Of the 39 members who did worse than he did, 18 retired, were in tough races, ran for higher office or lost in primaries—in other words, they had an excuse.
But at least Mr. Biggs tried. Two other major figures behind the effort to deny Mr. McCarthy the speakership, Virginia freshman Bob Good and Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, contributed even less. Mr. Good raised $27,500 toward his $175,000 NRCC assessment this cycle; Mr. Perry managed only $2,000 toward his $275,000 goal.
Adding insult to injury, these men required quite a bit of Mr. McCarthy’s help to get their seats. Mr. Good’s first election, in 2020 in a safely red district, still needed Mr. McCarthy’s PAC to spend $1.8 million and the NRCC $1.2 million on independent expenditures. Mr. McCarthy also helped Mr. Good’s re-election this year with $149,016 in hard dollars. Mr. Perry’s 2020 re-election needed $1.5 million in CLF independent expenditures and $1.2 million from NRCC. Mr. McCarthy also came to Mr. Perry’s aid this cycle with $157,233 in hard dollars. This was all part of the $79 million in help Mr. McCarthy has given Freedom Caucus members the last two cycles. Does the word “ingrates” pop into your head too?
It’s said that politics is a team sport, requiring leadership, effort, sacrifice and unity. Neither Mr. Biggs, Mr. Good, Mr. Perry nor their co-conspirators have shown these qualities. Instead, they’ve used the GOP’s narrow majority to grab the spotlight, make outrageous demands, and threaten to vote with Mrs. Pelosi and the progressive Squad to block Mr. McCarthy. It’s obvious they couldn’t have brought Republicans a majority, let alone kept one. Mr. Biggs’s candidacy should be treated as the insulting joke it is.
Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is author of “The Triumph of William McKinley” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).