House conservatives defeated their own efforts to unseat House Speaker John Boehner, a Politico says in an analysis
, with their side's most-promising candidate not even jumping into the race until the last minute.
Florida GOP Rep. Daniel Webster drew 12 of the 25 votes cast against Boehner on Tuesday, but he said he didn't decide to enter the race until 24 hours before the vote, and did not tell even his closest friend in the House, fellow Florida Republican Rep. Richard Nugent.
"We heard a rumor … the night before but he never reached out to me," Nugent said, according to Politico. "We spend a lot of time together, but I had not had a prior conversation with him."
The last-minute decision left Webster with no time to campaign for the seat, although the general consensus on the Hill is that he would likely serve as an effective speaker. While still in the Florida Legislature, Webster had served as state House speaker and then as Senate majority leader, and on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are said to be impressed with his demand for "regular order."
But behind the scenes, Webster began introducing himself to the more conservative House members last summer during a series of small group meetings, and Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who tried to gather backing for Webster on Tuesday, said he and others had spoken to him often about seeking the seat.
However, King said they made no formal efforts because Webster was not yet ready to commit to mounting a challenge against Boehner.
Webster's campaign cost him and his ally, Nugent, their key seats
from the speaker-controlled Rules Committee, when Boehner dropped them both just after the vote, but sources say he may return Nugent back to the panel.
Conservatives fighting against Boehner's re-election faced several more obstacles, after freshman representatives changed their minds after they promised to oppose the speaker, voting for him instead.
And while Boehner's opponents have been plotting against him for a year, the speaker didn't stand by and wait for the fight, Politico reports. After he nearly lost his seat last year, Boehner spent time in 2014 on the road raising millions in contributions for other rank-and-file party members.
In addition, he personally reached to GOP Conference members to gather their support around him.
On Tuesday, two unexpected factors also worked for Boehner. Inclement weather, along with the funeral for late Democratic New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, meant that many lawmakers were not at the weekday session, helping him reach a majority of voting members.
Also, the conservative opponents did not attract many of Boehner's loudest critics, including Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador, who abstained from the 2013 vote that brought Boehner in. He voted for the speaker this time.
Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina also backed Boehner, although they have criticized him in the past.
Meanwhile, Boehner's opponents may have overestimated the amount of support their campaign would bring. Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, one of the movement's leaders and himself a candidate for the speaker's gavel, said that going in, conservatives believed they had 35 to 40 votes, which would have been enough to unseat Boehner. But the speaker was able to get 216 out of the 408 votes, cast, which avoided the need for a second ballot.
But even Yoho, months before Tuesday's election, had been sending mixed messages. In October, he co-hosted a golf outing for the speaker in Florida, according to The Huffington Post
An invitation for the event, also co-hosted by several other congressmen, said a $10,000 donation to the Boehner for Speaker Committee would allow tickets to the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse in Point Vedra Beach, Florida, and the opportunity to golf with Boehner himself.
Even Nugent told Politico that he was leaning toward Boehner, but believed the speaker and his team did not respect members' concerns and called his vote "more of an act of frustration."
In addition, many conservatives who had spoken out against Boehner ended up voting for him rather than use their ballot as a protest.
"Right up until the last minute I wasn’t sure how I was going to vote," Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon, who said last summer he did not think Boehner would seek a third term.
"By the time it got back to me, honestly, [Boehner] had already secured the votes to be speaker," Salmon said. "And I’m thinking, do I want to cast what I thought was a meaningless protest vote, or am I going to try to fix some of the problems from within the tent than without, and I decided to vote for him."
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