Elise Stefanik Could Be Just What the GOP Needs
Published in The Washington Post
on May 6, 2021
Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) seems tapped to succeed Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) as the third-ranking member of House Republican leadership. Despite misgivings among more conservative members of the party, Stefanik could be just the type of new leader the GOP needs.
For many Americans, Stefanik first emerged into view as one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders during the House impeachment hearings in 2019. Her questions were smart and, more politically important, her demeanor was unyielding. This earned her the enmity of progressives who funneled more than $5 million to the campaign of her 2020 Democratic opponent, Tedra Cobb. Stefanik’s national presence allowed her to raise more than twice as much, which — combined with the rural, blue-collar district’s pro-Trump lean — allowed her to thrash Cobb by nearly 18 points. Trump’s public endorsement of her to replace Cheney will merely confirm to some observers that Stefanik is merely another loud Trump acolyte.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Stefanik is an unusually canny and precocious politician. She served in the George W. Bush administration in her early 20s and stayed on in Washington to work for Republican campaigns and conservative organizations. She went home to upstate New York in 2013 and prepared to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Bill Owens. Owens decided not to run again, and Stefanik swept to victory by 21 points in a district that President Barack Obama had won by 6 percentage points just two years earlier. At a mere 30 years of age, Stefanik was then the youngest woman ever elected to the House.
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Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.