Ensconced in a makeshift war room on Capitol Hill, Rep. Marlin Stutzman is burning up the phones with calls to fellow House Republicans, hoping for an upset in his dark horse bid to become the next majority whip.
The Indiana Republican is the underdog in a three-way race with House Majority Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
Both Roskam and Scalise had been preparing to run for whip in November, when the next regularly scheduled leadership elections are to be held, and were able to jump quickly when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in a Virginia GOP primary.
In a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, Stutzman, 37, who was elected in the Republican wave of 2010, said he has the “solid” support of 50 members, including Reps. Jackie Walorski and Todd Young of Indiana, Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada, Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina.
Stutzman’s strategy for overcoming Roskam and Scalise, who is considered the frontrunner, relies exclusively on advancing to a second ballot. He discussed his campaign with the Washington Examiner.
Examiner: What is your pitch to members?
Stutzman: A real bottom up approach, knowing the needs of members in their districts, understanding when’s the time to go after a vote and when’s the time to hold back … [being] a team player. … How do we use all of our strengths to get our conference moving in right direction.
Examiner: What does your whip count look like?
Stutzman: People are breaking, starting to make decisions, we’ve set up a war room that we’re working out of. I’ve got my call sheets here. We’re at a solid 50, and by our calculations there’s about 20-25 undecideds, so there’s a shot. I need to get to a second ballot to win. ... Then I think all bets are off.
Examiner: How have you differentiated yourself from Roskam and Scalise?
Stutzman: Each member is different. It’s knowing each individual member and how to approach them. Whether it’s the 2010 class [or not,] I’m always pitching my classmates on the importance of the 2010 class being a part of the leadership team at this point, their districts and how can we help them get established and [to] the senior members ... how I want to refine the whip process. ... It’s making sure I’m listening.
Examiner: Where is your support coming from?
Stutzman: Some don’t want to be disclosed, and we’re protecting that. We’re very diverse in where our support’s coming from.