House Speaker Paul Ryan has endorsed his top lieutenant, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, to be his successor, giving a significant boost to the Californian's candidacy in hopes of averting a divisive contest that could make an already hard election year even tougher for divided Republicans.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House on October 4, 2017. Ryan claimed he has chose to not to seek reelection strictly so he could spend time with family, though many speculate that he stepped down to avoid the midterm election, where the Democrats have a very good chance of taking the House of Representatives from the Republicans.
Ryan also said he still meant to serve out his term as speaker, arguing that a leadership race now would be a "needless distraction" from trying to keep the House GOP majority.
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"We all think Kevin is the right person to become Speaker", Ryan told NBC's Chuck Todd. "I think that's encouraging because what it shows you is that we have an intact leadership team that supports each other".
This time, McCarthy has the advantage of being close to President Donald Trump, which could shore up his credentials with more conservative members. McCarthy and his chief rival for the speakership, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., have been quietly shoring up support for months.
According to sources, the California representative told the President he wants the job.
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"He's been reaching out, trying to keep his promises to a number of members of the House Freedom Caucus. If and when there is a Speaker's race, colleagues have approached me about running and that's something I'm open to doing", Jordan said in an emailed statement on Friday to Reuters. For another, Republicans may be jockeying to become the next minority leader, since Democrats now hold a significant polling advantage on generic congressional ballots.
"There is no one who can get the 218 votes to be speaker today except Paul Ryan", North Carolina's Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said.
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