House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy is confident going into Thursday’s election for House Republican majority leader. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

By Matt Fuller
Posted at 5:50 p.m. on June 16, 2014

Raúl R. Labrador is gunning to make Thursday’s House GOP majority leader contest an electoral upset on par with Eric Cantor’s primary loss last week to Dave Brat. But Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is not just trying to win the race — he wants to make a statement.

“The question is not whether he has it locked up,” Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., told CQ Roll Call Monday. “The question is how many total votes will he have.”

Both Labrador, a second-term conservative from Idaho, and McCarthy, a fourth-term lawmaker from California, are working the phones, albeit for different reasons.

Labrador seems to think he can win the race; McCarthy seems to think he needs a strong vote margin if he wants to be majority leader for more than six months.

While they’re both contacting members, their overall campaign strategies are strikingly different. McCarthy has yet to do a news interview — he hasn’t even formally announced his candidacy. Meanwhile, Labrador is using the media to ask voters across the country to help him make his case to their representatives.

On Monday, Labrador spoke with CQ Roll Call about his strategy. He said most members of the Republican Conference want leadership to change — “We just want the committee process to work, we just want regular order” — and views this race as a “golden opportunity” to enact those transformations.

Labrador said the Republican Party needs “five or six” big ideas that Americans understand and connect with. “We need a conservative agenda, we need people to understand what the Republican Party stands for,” he said.

Washington insiders have already declared his rival Thursday’s winner, but Labrador told conservative talk radio hosts over the weekend that he remains confident he’ll be the next majority leader.

“I’m just going to keep working hard, and I need to earn every single vote, because I’m not going to make promises,” he said.

That could be a subtle shot at McCarthy — or it just might be an indication that Labrador recognizes that this race might be more about the score than the binary outcome. Either way, Labrador wouldn’t specifically comment on McCarthy’s strategy of staying out of the media’s eye.

“I don’t know what his strategy is,” Labrador said. “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.”

Labrador generally refused to bash McCarthy, saying “the great thing” about a Labrador win would be that McCarthy could remain majority whip.

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