The real reason Kevin McCarthy won

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The historic speakership drama offered a very public reminder of a counterintuitive, often overlooked, congressional truth: Losing can sometimes be the only way to win.

Many were quick to label Kevin McCarthy’s 14 failed speakership ballots over four days an embarrassing and position-weakening display. They’re not wrong, especially when factoring in the wide-ranging concessions McCarthy had to grant to the 20 Republican holdouts who were hellbent on stalling his decades-long pursuit for the Speaker’s gavel.

Ironically, losing those votes—as agonizing as they were for him personally—was perhaps the only way McCarthy and the Republican Party could have cleared their intra-party logjam. He obviously wasn’t able to lock up the necessary majority through negotiations alone. After all, McCarthy and the GOP have known for months they’d have to elect a Speaker before the House could swear in its members or organize itself for legislative business. Despite constantly bargaining with potential detractors since November, McCarthy couldn’t avoid the parade of primetime floor defeats.

But if McCarthy is such an embarrassing loser, how, then, did he end up the victor?


His ultimate win, albeit to a less powerful speakership

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