Rumors are circulating, apparently, that John Boehner will retire after the current election cycle. Ryan Grim and Jon Ward report. Are they true? I certainly have no idea. I do suspect that Boehner could keep the job if he wants it for at least two more years, but whether he wants it? It’s hard to get inside a politicians head. There’s surely a good case to be made that the reporting here couldn’t have happened unless Boehner was willing to let it happen…at any rate, that’s what we have for now.

What might be more useful is to speculate about what comes next. The assumption here is that Boehner retires after a status quo election, with Republicans picking up a handful of seats in the House. Just for fun, I’ll put percentages on the possibilities:

45%: The new Speaker, whether it’s Cantor or someone else who currently seems like a likely candidate, basically changes nothing. Within two months, the new Speaker is widely regarded by conservatives as the “establishment” brake on “real conservative” legislation.

45% The new Speaker, whether it’s Cantor or someone else who currently seems like a likely candidate, is very similar to Boehner but not as effective, leading to either a government shutdown, some other real disaster for Republicans, or at least a notable increase in floor fiascos; party/committee conflict increases.

6% The new Speaker is a real Tea Partier, and deliberately runs the House over the cliff, leading to a complete disaster for Republicans.

2% The new Speaker, Cantor or someone else who seems like a likely candidate,  is very similar to Boehner but significantly more effective. The Speaker is still denounced as an establishment sell out, but floor fiascos are a thing of the past, and deals are cut more easily.

1% The new Speaker somehow transforms House Republicans, putting an end to Republican and House dysfunction, and finding a way to enact a conservative policy agenda into law while cutting deals with Barack Obama and the Senate to give them some of their priorities.

1% New Speaker? What new Speaker? Republicans split, and can’t elect anyone as Speaker, leading to chaos and unpredictable results.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.