House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (La.) were both rumored to be in the running to fill the busy shoes of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan when he finishes his term and retires in January.
Today, in an interview with NBC, Ryan said has chosen his preferred successor.
If you placed your bets on McCarthy, you may now collect your winnings.
“I think we all believe that Kevin is the right person,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview that aired Friday. “I think Kevin’s the right guy to step up.”
While Ryan’s endorsement is important now immediately following Wednesday’s retirement announcement, some believe it won’t ultimately be the deciding factor and that McCarthy has an uphill climb.
“What’s changed is we have gotten a lot done. What’s changed is we came together as a team in 2015. We put together an agenda. We ran on that agenda. We won the election. We are executing that agenda. We are getting it done,” Ryan said. “So what’s changed is this leadership team has come together and gelled, this conference has been unified, and we’ve actually moved the ball and gotten things done.”
Ryan’s endorsement may not matter much in the long run; McCarthy’s bigger problem is at the far-right end of the conference. Conservatives blocked McCarthy from the post last time around and are already signaling that they’ll be willing to do the same unless he cuts a deal and empowers the group.
Rep. Jim Jordan, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Friday he has been encouraged to consider putting his name in for the position as well.
Ryan notes that his leadership team — which includes Scalise — will back McCarthy.
“So Steve Scalise — it’s your understanding that he believes that Kevin McCarthy should be the heir apparent, whether it’s leader or speaker?” NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Ryan.
“That’s right,” Ryan responded. “That’s right.