House Speaker John Boehner seems so unable to control House Republicans — clinging to power by his fingertips as the fiscal cliff negotiations drag barely through the White House doors — that Saturday Night Live portrayed him this weekend as a poor nerd whose colleagues stole his milk and threw it in the garbage. ("I realized how badly the Republican Party treats him when he even considers raising taxes," fake President Obama says at the fake press conference. "Leave this poor, orange man alone.") And while that image may be funny, it doesn't appear to be true. The guy who was so obviously positioning for Boehner's job during the debt limit talks in 2011, Eric Cantor, has pledged his support for Boehner's position. And the guy currently flirting with a challenge to Boehner's speakership might not be all that serious about deposing him after all. House leadership aides are watching Georgia Rep. Tom Price for signs he might run against Boehner, National Review's Robert Costa reports. Price just lost his race to be conference chairman — a Boehner ally beat him — but he told Costa he'll keep fighting for the conservative cause. "Leadership doesn’t require a title," Price said. But having the No. 1 title wouldn't hurt, right?
Yet even what appears to be the most serious challenge to Boehner's power isn't entirely about conservative principles — whether his enemies can block his renomination or not. It remains unclear whether Price's potential challenge is about 1) pushing for a conservative deal on the fiscal cliff, or 2) about grievances, or 3) about a Senate race two years from now. The evidence for each proves that Tom Price will probably leave the poor orange man alone:
1) Principles: Costa reports a "veteran House Republican" says Price "has spoken with me about his concerns... He says he doesn’t want conservatives to get burned."
2) Grievances: When Price started running for a House leadership post, Boehner tried to talk him out of it by offering a ceremonial position in exchange for total loyalty. Price said no. Costa reports: "'At the end of the day, Price thinks Boehner's people worked against him,' says a Republican House staffer. 'His style isn’t to complain publicly, and he doesn’t get emotional, but he is talking to members about how that vote went down.'"
3) Ambition: Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who's up for reelection in 2014, hasn't really every stopped talking trash about Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge. A Georgia consultant says Price is interested in running against Chambliss in the primary, so he's setting himself up as the true conservative.
Nevertheless, here's Saturday Night Live's more amusing take.