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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 RyanMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Atheist group argues in court for prayer rights on House floor Small-dollar donations explode in the Trump era MORE (R-Wis.) is throwing his support behind Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMaxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — GOP faces ‘green wave’ in final stretch to the midterms Conservatives fear Trump will cut immigration deal 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 TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation 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 ScaliseScalise: Trump was 'clearly ribbing' Gianforte with remarks on body-slamming reporter GOP candidate says he chose bad 'metaphor' with face-stomping comments Democrats must end mob rule 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 BoehnerHouston Chronicle endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger 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 JordanNellie Ohr exercises spousal privilege in meeting with House panels Meadows calls on Rosenstein to resign 'immediately' Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel 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.