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What to watch for in today's heated House GOP leadership elections

In this Jan. 4, 2013, file photo, Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., left, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., shuttle between the House floor and the offices of House Speaker John Boehner, on Capitol Hill in Washington. In the tumultuous aftermath of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s sudden loss last week in his Virginia primary race, McCarthy is the strong favorite to become the new majority leader, and Roskam is seeking votes in the Republican Conference to take over as the new whip. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)Nine days after Eric Cantor’s shocking primary loss, House Republicans will gather on Thursday behind closed doors to elect new leaders in the congressional equivalent of a papal conclave. And while such an event seems, on its surface, to be the sort of political sport that engages only the inside-the-Beltway class, it also has potential ramifications for the larger GOP moving forward, as conservatives and establishment members square off over the future of their party. The secret-ballot election, which will take place at 2 p.m. in the Longworth House Office Building’s ornate Ways and Means Committee room, could last for hours. Members are at a minimum choosing a new majority leader, replacing Cantor, and most likely also voting in a three-way race for majority whip. Though leadership elections are often messy affairs, this particular election seems especially fraught, as the conference’s insurgent conservatives hope not to squander the political window opened by Cantor’s upset loss at the hands of a tea party challenger.

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