Can the GOP's Young Guns Still Reform the Party?

Not only did Cantor vote for Boehner today, but as if trying to dispel any idea that he'd orchestrated the freshman vote for his name moments before Cantor stood up and loudly declared his support for the speaker.

"It is an honor to serve with @SpeakerBoehner. I look forward to continue working with my friend to help all Americans," Cantor quickly tweeted afterward -- this despite between the well-known, longtime rift between the two leaders.

It may be that the strongest member to emerge from the dust -- and, in conservatives' eyes, remain true to the Young Guns philosophy that successfully worked with the grass-roots to forge some change in the past -- will be McCarthy.

The 47-year-old California Republican, representing the area around Bakersfield, isn't that well-known to Washington outsiders -- who, as with Ryan and Cantor, could be quick to brand him an insider in the speaker's favor who couldn't possibly bring the GOP back to its small-government roots.

A small businessman before entering state politics, McCarthy spent the last Congress not just whipping members but flogging the Obama administration's energy policy as anti-oil and natural gas. He launched the House Energy Action Team that waged a full-court press against Obama's "all of the above" energy strategy as disregarding any sources below the ground, lent congressional support to fracking, helped keep Keystone on lawmakers' lips, and lifted up as a model for the nation the economic renaissance in North Dakota thanks to the Bakken formation drilling.

Still, McCarthy would need to better introduce himself to grass-roots Republicans for them to have faith that he could be the leadership member best poised to steer the party back in its fiscally conservative direction. Save for the floor speech of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), most Republicans who voted against the fiscal cliff deal -- Cantor and McCarthy included -- did so quietly without pomp or explanation of their stand.

When it comes to political posturing from the fiscal cliff vote, though, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- two of just eight senators to vote against the fiscal cliff deal -- may be not just trying to shape the course of the Republican Party but burnish their credentials for potential future runs at the White House.

Paul quickly registered his disapproval in the early morning hours of New Year's Day. Rubio carefully positioned himself as one of the last senators to cast his vote.

"I won’t deny that I’m interested, a little bit different from I’m interested,” Paul has stated about his 2016 thoughts, all the while stressing that a “new type of Republican” is needed to face today's challenges.

Rubio has gone the more traditional route, reaching out for the middle ground in an election night statement urging the Republican Party to reach out to Latinos and immigrants.

Paul railed against the lack of spending cuts in a floor speech before the vote. After the vote, Rubio took his argument directly to a press release.

“I appreciate all the hard work that went into avoiding the so-called 'fiscal cliff'. I especially commend Senator McConnell's efforts to make the best out of a bad situation. Nevertheless, I cannot support the arrangement they have arrived at," Rubio said. "Rapid economic growth and spending reforms are the only way out of the real fiscal cliff our nation is facing. But rapid economic growth and job creation will be made more difficult under the deal reached here in Washington."