Donald Trump's strong endorsement Wednesday of Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to be House GOP Conference Chairman was no surprise to Stefanik-watchers.
The 4-term congresswoman is, after all, almost sure to take on incumbent conference chair and sworn Trump nemesis Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.
Branding Cheney "a warmongering fool," Trump gave his blessings to Stefanik and hailed the New Yorker as a "tough and smart communicator."
What is a bit surprising about Stefanik being a "Trump troubadour" is her political background as that of a solid "establishment" Republican.
"You've got to interview Elise," veteran Republican operative Ben Key, Stefanik's close political adviser told me at the 2013 Republican National Committee meeting in Boston. "She's going to win the 21st District [upstate New York] and she'll be a superstar."
At the time, Harvard graduate Stefanik had worked in the Bush White House on the domestic policy council. She began the 2012 election cycle on the campaign team of Minnesota GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who faded quickly, and ended up briefing vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for his televised debate with then Vice President Joe Biden.
Bush, Pawlenty, and Ryan were all pillars of the GOP establishment and all would become enemies of Trump when he came on the scene.
When no one else wanted the nomination, Stefanik was bound and determined to take on 3-term Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y. In a surprise decision, Owens announced his retirement. Another Republican got in the race, but Stefanik clobbered him with 61% of the vote.
In November of 2014, she won the seat with 55% over 2 opponents and became, at 30, the youngest woman elected to the House up to that time.
Rated 57% by the American Conservative Union for 2020, Stefanik has a lifetime rating of 43.4% from the venerable organization — far below Cheney's 78% lifetime rating.
The Lugar Center, which rates members of Congress in terms of bipartisanship, recently named Stefanik "the 13th most bipartisan of all 435 U.S. Representatives."
Never identified with Trump, Stefanik moved into the 45th president's camp when she engaged in verbal fisticuffs with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., during televised impeachment proceedings in 2019.
"A star is born," the then-president tweeted of her at the time.
Along with opposing impeachment, Stefanik supported Trump's claim of election fraud and voted to object to confirmation of Pennsylvania's electoral votes.
Throughout her House career, Stefanik has always run with the ballot line of the New York Conservative Party. A fixture in Empire State politics since 1962, the NYCP endorsement has been key to the elections of nearly all of its Republican U.S. Representatives.
NYCP State Chairman Gerard Kassar gave his strong endorsement Wednesday afternoon to Stefanik's bid for conference chair.
"President Trump is right to recommend Rep. Elise Stefanik for the leadership post currently held by Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming," Kassar said. "Congresswoman Stefanik has the respect of her conference, and a positive, forward-looking vision for her party and nation. The Conservative Party urges her immediate appointment to the leadership post."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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