Changing GOP Leadership: Gingrich vs.
Madigan in 1989
On Friday, March 10, 1989, at 10:00 a.m., President George Bush announced he would nominate Representative Richard B. Cheney of Wyoming, the House Republican Whip, to be secretary of defense (the president's first nominee, John Tower, had just been rejected by the U.S. Senate). By 11:00 a.m., Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia, who held no House leadership position, announced that he would seek the Whip vacancy created by Cheney's resignation. The next Wednesday Gingrich claimed he had seventy-two votes in the 174‐ member House Republican Conference, a long way toward the majority needed to win the post. 1 Seven days later, March 22, House Republicans narrowly elected Gingrich their new Whip, eighty-seven to eighty-five, with two members not voting. Gingrich's opponent had been Ed Madigan of Illinois, who had been Chief Deputy GOP Whip for Cheney and for Cheney's predecessor Trent Lott. He had also chaired the Republican Research Committee and followed the traditional conciliatory leadership style of House Republican Leader Robert Michel. 2
Gingrich was the first announced Whip candidate, but he was not the early favorite. In fact, behind the scenes there was an almost frantic search to find an opponent who could keep Gingrich off the leadership ladder. Jerry Lewis of California, recently elected Republican conference chairman (the number-three position), was mentioned most often as the alternative. Lewis had won close victories in other tough leadership battles. Said one GOP aide on March 12, "if you have to bet five bucks today, you've got to bet on Lewis." 3 Vin Weber of Minnesota, Bill McCollum of Florida, and Mickey Edwards of Okla