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OK, Now That Kavanaugh Has Been Confirmed…

Now that Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed as Justice Brett Kavanaugh conservatives had a Saturday afternoon (and evening) to celebrate, a Sunday to give thanks, and now it is Monday and time to get back to work.

The midterm election is now less than a month away, and many pundits spent the weekend saying that the Jim Jordan for SpeakerDemocrats have overplayed their hand and that “normal” Americans were disgusted by what they saw and heard – especially what the heard – from the near-psychotic protests against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

That may be true – if Republicans remind them enough times between now and Election Day, because it is not certain that folks out in Real America saw what those of us consumed by conservative politics and policy saw.

One of our CHQ team members was at the airport as the final tally on the Kavanaugh confirmation was announced and reports that the biggest topic of conversation at the airport bar where he was having his “beer for Brett” was not the confirmation vote; it was college football.

And we should not forget that Republicans winning the midterm election does not guarantee a conservative Congress.

The race for Speaker remains very much up in the air, with establishment favorite Rep. Kevin McCarthy, vying with fellow Ryan leadership team member Steve Scalise and conservative Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Jim Jordan for the Speaker’s gavel.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been trying hard to position himself as the Trump-backed candidate, even as he has spent the past two years whipping votes against the President’s agenda of defunding Planned Parenthood, building the wall on our southern border and reducing immigration generally.

At a recent high-dollar fundraiser to benefit House Republicans President Trump wished retiring Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) well, then turned to a different table, pointed at McCarthy, and said he looks forward to working with McCarthy next.

McCarthy’s allies are trying to spin Trump's off-the-cuff remarks to mean that he was supporting McCarthy, the No. 2 GOP leader, to succeed Ryan as Speaker of the House next year.

"The president had a fantastic speech talking about all our accomplishments," said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), a key McCarthy ally who was among 60 GOP lawmakers who attended the closed-door fundraiser inside the Trump International Hotel near the White House.

"It was a really neat farewell of the relationship that he's had with Paul Ryan, and as he was wishing Paul well, he looked at Kevin and said, 'I look forward to working with you,' " Graves told The Hill’s Scott Wong.

"At last night's event at the Trump Hotel, there were several clear examples of the Trump family rallying behind Kevin McCarthy for Speaker," said a second McCarthy ally. "Kim was explicit, but [Trump] Jr. made clear his loyalties, too."

Wong reports Ryan publicly endorsed McCarthy earlier this year, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the No. 3 GOP leader, has said he will not challenge McCarthy for the Speaker's gavel. But Scalise has been campaigning for colleagues across the country and staking out positions to the right of McCarthy, endearing himself to conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus. 

If McCarthy stumbles in his second attempt to become Speaker, Wong says Scalise will be waiting in the wings, prepared to dive into the race for the top leadership post.

The Hill’s Scott Wong reports other GOP House members in the room downplayed Trump's shout out to McCarthy, saying that Scalise is close to the president and his family as well. During his speech Thursday night, Trump also heaped praise on Scalise, describing him as the "toughest man in town" after he survived a near-fatal gunshot wound during a congressional baseball practice last year.

And a couple weeks ago, Scalise went alligator hunting in Louisiana with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. The majority whip also recently hosted a lawmaker dinner with the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and has been working with Kushner on the Canada trade issue.

"Scalise has strong ties to Trump family members, too," a GOP source told Scott Wong.

Supporters of McCarthy and Scalise have been trying to downplay the rise of conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, who Trump called up on stage during a key rally for Ohio special election winner Troy Balderson.

Jordan’s participation was totally unplanned, but when President Trump heard the crowd begin to chant “Speaker Jordan” he made the impromptu decision to call Jordan up on the stage for some remarks. The look on the President’s face when the crowd went wild for Jordan’s “keep our promises” speech made it clear he had a new understanding of the dynamics of the Speaker’s race.

"I would be extremely surprised if the president weighs in on the Speaker's race with so many personal friendships on Capitol Hill," The Hill’s Scott Wong reports, citing a second GOP source. "There is no upside for him to do so."

That means conservatives have a two-step process to achieve a conservative Congress: First, keep the House and expand their numbers in the Senate. Second, put the pressure on the Republican majority to elect Jim Jordan Speaker and keep their promises.

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