Ryan endorses Majority Leader McCarthy for speaker

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has endorsed his right hand man, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as his replacement.

McCarthy made a bid for the speakership in 2015 but fell short of the necessary votes.  The GOP caucus then turned to Ryan.


The Wisconsin Republican told NBC's Chuck Todd that "we all think that Kevin is the right person" and predicted a "seamless transition."  He said McCarthy, who failed to garner the votes in his 2015 speaker bid, would be able to muster the needed support this time because he's been instrumental in passing GOP priorities over the past year.

"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.

House Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan declared that he was considering his own speakership bid on Friday morning, all but ensuring that McCarthy would not have the votes if the election were held today.

Ryan also said he still intended 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.

McCarthy's main rival at the moment is Majority Whip Steve Scalise.  But Jordan's expected bid for speaker will almost certainly mean a deadlock in the voting.

Much will depend on whether the Republicans hold the House in November.  If they do, expect Scalise to fall in line and endorse McCarthy.  But if the GOP loses the House, all bets are off.  It is probable that many establishment Republicans will lose their seats, leaving the caucus more conservative and less likely to vote for someone like McCarthy, who is known for working with Democrats occasionally. 

But the Freedom Caucus and Jim Jordan do not have near enough votes to elect one of their members speaker.  In the case of a deadlock, another candidate may emerge as a compromise.  There are several members who might step forward, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who gets high marks from many colleagues. 

A loss in November will turn the leadership battle into a war for the soul of the Republican Party.  In that case, the already factionalized caucus would become even more divided, giving Democrats a clean shot at impeaching Trump and blocking his agenda.

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