The 50 Most Powerful People In Washington*

Every two years, GQ conducts a broad survey of power inside the Beltway, and this time around, the timing produced some unusual cross-currents: a Democrat in the White House, but largely thwarted by a single house of Congress; a presidential election in progress that tends to dislocate at least some of the “pulpit” power of Washington outward to whatever state is hosting the next primary. After countless phone calls, conversations, arguments, and coin-flipping, we come up with that top 3 up there. The full list of fifty is here. And for an explanation of why Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, is our pick for the most powerful person in DC right now—eleven spots higher than his boss John Boehner—here’s GQ correspondent Jason Zengerle:

The Republican whom Democrats—especially Obama—hate most. The Virginia Congressman masterminded, and then masterfully carried out, the GOP’s strategy of legislative intransigence that has stymied the White House these past three years. In the process, he imposed his will on all of Washington, refashioning the city into a hyperpartisan capital of gridlock. And if Obama’s a one-term president, it will be Cantor—as much as Newt or Mitt—who’ll deserve the credit/blame for knocking him out. “We have people who have great ideas but who can’t execute and we have people who know how to act but aren’t steeped in policy,” says Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan. “Eric has both of those talents, which is rare.” Widely presumed to be the next GOP Speaker of the House, the biggest question for Cantor is does he wait for John Boehner (#12) to step aside, or does he give him a shove?

* As ever, this list does not include people with the last name “Obama” or “Biden.” Tough luck, Jill.