Needing 214 votes (of the 427 lawmakers who voted) to win reelection to the speakership on January 3, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) handily beat his closest opponent, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the office, 220-192. Boehner did see a smattering of dissenting votes in his conference, but no serious challenger within his conference came close to depriving the Speaker of a majority on the first ballot.
Despite these facts, however, today's Washington Post blared on page A4 that "Boehner narrowly wins 2nd term as House speaker." "12 of most conservative Republicans staged rebellion against him," the subheadline for Paul Kane's story insisted melodramatically. The Ohio Republican "was narrowly reelected speaker... giving him a another [sic] chance to lead the chamber -- a task that has been difficult for him over the past two years," staffer Paul Kane began his 14-paragraph story.
Kane sought, like others in the media, to portray the vote as a razor-thin close call -- "Boehner watched the white-knuckle proceedings from off the floor" -- that underlines how "difficult for him" it's been for Boehner to lead the House Republican conference over the past two years. But much like Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan at Politico (see my Jan. 3 story here), Kane's own reporting conflicted with the "close vote" narrative he wished to weave (emphasis mine):
The anti-Boehner faction cast its votes for a odd collection of Republicans, including tea party icon Allen B. West of Florida, a one-term congressman who lost his reelection bid in November. But it did not drain away enough support to topple the speaker. The position, second in the line of succession for the presidency, does not have to be held by a current member of Congress.
It might have helped Kane's "close vote" storyline if there was one Republican to whom most dissenters rallied around, but the anti-Boehner vote was fractured.
When all was said and done, a full 95 percent of the House GOP voted for Boehner, meaning just 5 percent defected. By contrast, a full 4 percent of Democrats refused to cast a vote for Nancy Pelosi, a fact which Kane left unmentioned.
Traditionally the minority party votes as a bloc for the House minority leader in the House speaker election vote, but yesterday Pelosi saw a total of eight Democrats -- 4 percent of her caucus -- that either voted for other Democrats or simply abstained from the vote. That was an improvement over 2011, when a full 10 percent of her caucus revolted against her, but all the same, a balanced journalist might have picked up on this and relayed it to readers.