Stefanik, Roy make their pitches to be House GOP No. 3

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Elise Stefanik and Chip Roy on Thursday night pitched their House GOP colleagues on their cases to be the conference's next No. 3 leader, pledging to put aside their personal views in order to execute messaging on behalf of the party less than 48 hours after the fraught eviction of Liz Cheney.

Multiple Republicans in the room for the gathering, billed as a candidate forum, described the back-and-forth between the New York and Texas Republicans as friendly and formal. Roy contended that he was the more conservative choice, while Stefanik emphasized her efforts to elect GOP women and her fundraising prowess.

Lawmakers who attended estimated the crowd at roughly 60, suggesting that many House Republicans have already made up their minds how they intend to vote on the conference chairship after Wednesday's ouster of Cheney (R-Wyo.).

Roy, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, joined the leadership race shortly before the forum after hinting at a run earlier this week.

He has argued that Stefanik should not serve as House Republicans' No. 3 leader because of her moderate record, also protesting the speed at which the party moved to replace Cheney. But as Roy left the forum, he declined to directly answer if he planned to withdraw from the running.

“We are going to have a vote tomorrow in the Republican conference,” was all Roy replied.

Asked whether he is concerned about former President Donald Trump’s Thursday statement bashing him and affirming a Stefanik endorsement, Roy likened a group of reporters to "vultures" and said: “This is all D.C. swamp business.”

Shortly before the candidates spoke, Trump called for Roy to face a primary challenger. Stefanik won the former president's backing to replace Cheney last week.

After walking out of the meeting, Stefanik described it as a “great discussion” to reporters, cited support from all corners of the GOP conference and said “we are in a strong position.” She also touted her endorsement from Trump, stating that "voters look to his support."

Yet multiple Republicans have complained that they feel boxed in by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, alleging that he has put his finger on the scale for Stefanik.

During the forum, Stefanik and Roy were pressed on how they would approach the job as House GOP messaging chief and whether they can put aside their personal views to speak for the whole conference, according to lawmakers in the room.

After Cheney was ousted on Wednesday, McCarthy scheduled a forum where candidates for her replacement could speak on Thursday evening and set the election for Friday morning.

So far, there are zero signs that McCarthy plans to delay the election, despite the smattering of objections. Still, there are some rumblings on the far-right about trying to force some procedural motions during Friday’s conference meeting as a form of protest.

Stefanik, the moderate turned Trump ally, is considered the frontrunner in the race and has worked swiftly to build a wide coalition of support from across the conference. She voted against one of two states whose electoral votes were challenged by scores of pro-Trump Republicans on Jan. 6, while Roy voted to certify the election.

"He has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district," Trump said. "I support Elise, by far, over Chip!"

Roy, a former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who has a reputation as a procedural trouble-maker, will likely pitch himself as a conservative alternative to Stefanik.

Fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) is planning to formally nominate him, sources said.

Freshman Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), whom Stefanik helped get elected through her PAC supporting GOP women, is one of the members planning to nominate the New Yorker.