"I felt comfortable with the way it turned out," Yoho said after the meeting. Asked why he introduced the resolution, he replied: "Because we're rushing into this. This is a historic and momentous time in our nation's history. And to rush into this, we're not doing our due diligence. ... I've got members coming up to me and saying, 'I don't know Raul. I don't know Marlin.'"
He added: "Mr. Cantor is going to be here until July 31. There's no reason to rush into this. And I just think it's wrong."
The impact of the tight turnaround is being felt more acutely in the whip's race — partially because Labrador was always going to be a long shot to defeat McCarthy, but also because the campaign to replace McCarthy is a three-candidate affair. With both Scalise and Rep. Peter Roskam well-known and well connected throughout the conference, Stutzman, having less than a week to organize his campaign, has settled on the only strategy he can: to force a second ballot.
"Get to the second ballot," Stutzman told National Journal after Wednesday's forum. "On the second ballot, all bets are off."
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is whipping votes for Stutzman, said their team is focused solely on eliminating someone — it would have to be Roskam — on the first ballot. If successful, only then will their attention turn to defeating Scalise head-to-head. "We can multi-task sometimes but at this moment we are not [focused on the second ballot]," Jordan said.
Scalise, whom both rivals' camps acknowledge as the front-runner, told reporters that his team has contingency plans for a second and even, potentially, a third ballot. "We are talking to people in both camps," he said, about switching their allegiances later in the process if no candidate gets a majority on the first vote.
"Look, if your opponents' main strategy is to come in second, then I'm here to help them achieve that goal," Scalise said.
The candidates forum offered the five candidates for the two leadership jobs a chance to make their first and only pitch to the entire GOP Conference before Thursday afternoon's vote. But there were no fireworks; indeed, according to people in the room, the contenders were telling their colleagues behind closed doors almost exactly what they've been saying in public.
"It was nothing too profound," said Rep. Peter King of New York.
That said, attendance at the forum was conspicuously sparse. Many members were seen filing into the meeting room, located in the House basement, at least an hour into the scheduled event. Sources in the room said the first period of the meeting, dedicated to a question-and-answer session with McCarthy and Labrador, was attended by only 50 or 60 lawmakers — the vast majority of whom were Labrador supporters there to voice frustrations with the current leadership team. That so many members arrived only for the portion dedicated to the whip's race reflects the belief that McCarthy already has the majority leader's post locked down.