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Less than a week before House Republicans will decide on their new leaders in wake of Eric Cantor’s stunning loss on Tuesday, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is confident he’ll win the No. 3 leadership position.
That No.3 position, majority whip, is open given that current Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., appears to be the overwhelming favorite to replace Cantor as majority leader.
Pointing to his experience as chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, Scalise tells NBC News, “I’m the only candidate in this race who has run within the conference before on a secret ballot, I know what it takes and how to round up the votes.”
Despite working the phones until 3:00 am over the last few nights, rounding up the votes for his own election is not falling squarely on Scalise.
His effort is being bolstered by an impressive whip team of more than 30 fellow members. The list of members, shared with NBC News under the condition their identities not be shared, is a diverse national group made up of well-respected committee chairmen, members close to House Speaker John Boehner and a healthy balance of conservative and establishment Republicans.
Also helping Scalise: his home southern state of Louisiana.
“In my conversations with members, it’s come up a lot that I’d be the only red-state guy in leadership. That’s important for a lot of folks," he said.
Boehner is from Ohio and presumptive Majority Leader McCarthy is from California. Scalise’s top opponent for the whip job is Deputy Whip Peter Roskam from Illinois -- all blue states the last two presidential elections.
While conservatives in the House Republican conference see Scalise as a strong proponent of their ideas, current leadership aides and moderate members acknowledge that Scalise is somebody that “they can do business with” when it comes to the tough votes House Republicans have faced over the last few years.
Supporters point to Scalise’s recent shepherding of unpopular farm bill on the House floor and his support for a flood insurance bill that had come under fire from fiscal hawks.
When asked what he’d like to do as whip, Scalise said, “Making sure we’re a party of conservative ideas that can be put into action and worked through.”