Ryan backs McCarthy for Speaker: He's 'the right person'

Ryan backs McCarthy for Speaker: He's 'the right person'
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump MORE (R-Wis.) is throwing his support behind Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWhite House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal House votes to condemn Trump for 'racist comments' On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses MORE to be his successor, giving a boost to the California Republican.

"We all think that Kevin is the right person,” Ryan told Chuck Todd in an excerpt of an interview for NBC's "Meet the Press" released Friday.

The move helps elevate the No. 2 House Republican in a bid to replace Ryan and potentially heads off a messy and protracted leadership battle before the midterm elections.

McCarthy, Ryan’s top lieutenant and a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE, has not formally thrown his hat into the ring to replace Ryan, but has long been viewed as a Speaker-in-waiting since he has the most direct path to the job.

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Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe four Republicans who voted to condemn Trump's tweets White House abruptly cancels Trump meeting with GOP leaders Capitol Police chief says threats against lawmakers increasing MORE (R-La.) has also expressed openness to running for the position, but said this week he would not run against McCarthy.

McCarthy would still to need lock up 218 votes to secure the Speakership if the GOP retains control of the House in November, or if Republicans decide to elect a Speaker before the midterms.

The California Republican abruptly dropped a bid for Speaker in 2015, following the exit of then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAmash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise A cautionary tale for Justin Amash from someone who knows Border funding bill highlights the problem of 'the Senate keyhole' MORE (R-Ohio). McCarthy said at the time that he didn't have enough support to effectively preside over the GOP conference.

Ryan announced his official retirement plans on Wednesday, saying he will stick round until his term ends in January — though speculation has been growing about whether Ryan would be pressured to relinquish the gavel sooner.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation Kellyanne Conway defies congressional subpoena at Trump's direction Social media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, announced Friday morning that he was considering a leadership bid. 

The Freedom Caucus is looking to flex its muscle again in the leadership race this year, and may seek to extract promises from McCarthy in exchange for their support.

The group of roughly 30 conservative hard-liners is an influential voting bloc in Congress. If they decide to put up their own long-shot candidate like Jordan, that would draw conservative votes away from McCarthy and step up the likelihood that the No. 2 Republican would seek to cut a deal with the group.

Some lawmakers also argue that a key factor in the Speaker's race may be an endorsement from Trump.

McCarthy was one of the earliest congressional backers of Trump, and he has been publicly and privately vying for the president's support in recent weeks. But it's unclear whether Trump will get involved in a leadership race on Capitol Hill.