Monica Wehby

Cantor Loss Could Lead to Walden Promotion

The upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday could be a boon for Oregon, as Congressman Greg Walden will seek to step up from his current GOP leadership post.

Walden, the lone Republican in Oregon's congressional delegation, could be in the mix for a loftier leadership position after Cantor’s July resignation following his surprise defeat at the hands of a little-known economics professor backed by the Tea Party in this week's Virginia primary election. 

Walden easily survived his own Tea Party challenge in Oregon's primary last month.

Walden chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee. He is close to House Speaker John Boehner, who is coming to Oregon for a Walden fundraiser. Walden is friendly with Texas Congressman Pete Sessions, who wasted no time launching his bid to succeed Cantor.

Oregonian political reporter Jeff Mapes says Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the Republican conference — the fourth ranking GOP leadership perch — also is interested in Cantor's former job. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California is next in the leadership pecking order and can be expected to vie to move up.

GOP Studying Wehby Campaign for Clues

The U.S. Senate race in Oregon may really be about putting Oregon and other blue states into play for the 2016 presidential election.

According to a story published in the Washington Post, Monica Wehby's attempt to unseat Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley is a field trial for a different kind of Republican candidate — female, a medical doctor and less strident on flash-point social issues.

National GOP operatives are branding Wehby as an "independent conservative," perhaps as a contrast to the more rough-hewn "maverick" persona projected by former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Wehby may have trouble with messy break-ups, but you wouldn't catch her shooting moose from a helicopter.

Wehby campaign officials will insist, as they should, their candidate is in the race to win. Her victory in Oregon, they would say, would help to ensure Republicans retake the U.S. Senate and control Congress during the final two years of the Obama presidency.

She is seeking to project an image with a TV ad showing her saving a newborn with spinal problems. Her catch phrase is, "Keep your doctor, change your senator."

However, the race in Oregon is more likely to come down to a battle over Republican and Democratic views on economic policies and social issues. Merkley's campaign will do its best to turn the race into a referendum of national policies. Therein lies the interest in the race at a national level. Can an attractive candidate who can utter comprehensible sentences and hasn't listed to the far-right of the GOP base overcome the built-in constituencies of issues such as pay equity and carbon reduction.