Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz has decided to make a run at what is considered the third most powerful position in the U.S. government, Speaker of the House.
Chaffetz, best known in political circles for his firebrand personality, is also quite infamous in the poker community as the sponsor of the Sheldon Adelson-inspired Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill, which seeks to impose a federal ban on online gambling.
Chaffetz, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, is seen as a long shot to win the Speakership. Chaffetz is likely banking on support from a core group of conservatives who won’t vote for the mainstream choice, and with this base support he can whip up more supporters.
This will be a tough sell, and length of service won’t be Chaffetz’s only handicap in the battle to succeed John Boehner as the Speaker of the House.
Chaffetz’s time in Congress is pretty light on accomplishments and heavy on vitriol, controversial remarks, and gaffes. While acrimony and controversial remarks appeal to a certain base of the party, Chaffetz himself runs afoul of that base on certain issues.
Chaffetz will also have to deal with the increased spotlight that comes with applying for such a high profile position. A good example of this is Joe Biden’s favorable rating and the people pointing to it as a reason he should run for president and challenge the more polarizing Hillary Clinton.
But there is a saying in politics that goes something like this: everybody has a positive opinion of you until you run for president.
What this essentially means is that once you run for an important position, people start paying very close attention to everything and anything you’ve ever done. For example, should Biden declare, he will bombarded by his numerous gaffes, old plagiarism accusations, and his policies and track record.
For Chaffetz, a campaign to become the next Speaker of the House will bring all of his perceived warts to the surface. Some have already started to make national news thanks to Chaffetz’s many appearances on cable news and bombastic comments on everything from President Obama, to legal marijuana, online gambling, and of course, Planned Parenthood.
“Well, we’ll get to the bottom of that”
At a recent hearing Chaffetz, the Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, decided to spring a trap on Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, displaying a slide that purported to show an accurate depiction of Planned Parenthood’s services (namely, a rise in abortions and a decline in other services) that was allegedly taken from Planned Parenthood’s annual reports.
Well, it turns out Chaffetz’s trap blueprints were borrowed from Wile E. Coyote. The slide was not only misleading, but it was also put together by an anti-abortion group, not Planned Parenthood.
Chaffetz’s attempt at creating a “gotcha” moment turned him into late night fodder, leaving him speechless with an embarrassed, deer in headlights look before he could muster a, “well, we’ll have to get to the bottom of that,” statement.
Not quite what Republicans are looking for in their next Speaker.
Sir, you have a RAWA problem
Chaffetz may prop himself up as a Tea Party conservative who can attract support from that caucus, but one of his signature bills, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, goes against two core principles of the conservative base he panders to: cronyism and federal overreach.
It’s no secret that Sheldon Adelson is behind RAWA (allegedly), and Chaffetz often claims RAWA (a federal ban) is somehow a way to protect state’s rights, and he often twists himself into a pretzel trying to support this point of view.
Chaffetz also famously told state officials that if they didn’t like RAWA they could introduce their own bills in Congress next year.
Chaffetz also managed to miss a layup when he held a RAWA hearing earlier this year. Even though he handpicked the witnesses, the hearing was a clear win for those advocating for the legalization and regulation of online gambling.
What Chaffetz managed to do was stack the deck in his favor and deal himself the losing hand.
Even before anyone digs into his policies, Chaffetz looks like a very weak candidate for House speaker.