I chose a date in the future–about the time floor debate really starts to heat up and the calendar grows long and members start to realize that their bills are dead–because I really don’t think that the speakers race ends on Tuesday at noon. Oh, there will be a winner, but no matter who it is, the House is so divided, not into Republicans and Democrats but into Craddicks and antiCraddicks, with just a few votes separating them, that we may see a perpetual speakers race this session. Suppose Craddick wins. You know that the ABCs will be challenging everything about his speakership, from his ethics to his parliamentary rulings. As soon as Craddick’s committee appointments come out, they will be closely perused for the names of members who might be disappointed and subject to wooing. If the vote on January 9 is close, it might take just a handful of recruits for the ABCs to pass a motion to declare the chair vacant, and for the race to begin anew.

If Pitts wins, he will have a week or two to consolidate his position, to persuade some major Republican players and donors to get behind him (not the Leininger/Bob Perry/Beercherl/Dick Weekley group for whom Craddick does favors, but those who are concerned about the future of the Republican majority) and to start wooing Craddick supporters to join his team. He is going to have to realize that there will be no way to be sure of their loyalty, because the current speakers race has established that pledges are not set in stone, but he will also know that they want to be on the winning side. All of this is going to have to be accomplished before Pitts makes committee appointments and creates, inevitably, a new group of disgruntled members who were hoping for more. (Pitts’ task in making committee appointments will be much harder than Craddick’s; he has to satisfy not only his core supporters, but also Craddick Republicans who sign on with him.) Then, when floor debate starts in mid-March, he has to be prepared to field daily assaults from the Craddick insiders group–Chisum, Swinford, Eissler, Hartnett, King, and others–lest they create a situation where a motion to vacate the chair might pass. Craddick will never give up. When Republicans were in the minority, he was as good at playing the outsiders’ game as he has been at playing the insiders’ game. He will create mischief on the floor without ever leaving fingerprints.

No matter who the speaker is, this is going to be one tough session.