Who'll follow Paul Ryan as speaker? Contest hums below radar

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With news that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) won't seek another term in 2018, California Republican Kevin McCarthy is expected to make a bid for the position, assuming Republicans keep their majority.

"I've got a job right now as the House majority whip and there's a lot more we need to do", Scalise said. If weird stuff happens and neither McCarthy nor Scalise can cobble together a sufficiently sizeable coalition of supporters, a prominent hard-line conservative like Meadows could pitch themselves to the caucus as particularly well-equipped to work with President Trump, whose relationship with Ryan could charitably be described as "strained".

"I wouldn't run against Kevin".

Scalise previously told Politico he's interested in being speaker someday, and he is broadly popular among his colleagues.

He also dismissed talk that he would be the more conservative choice for Speaker.

"What it shows you is that we have an intact leadership team that supports each other, that's all heading in the right direction", the Speaker added.

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This time, McCarthy isn't revealing much about his potential aspirations to move up the leadership chain, downplaying the urgency to mount a campaign for Speaker. Ryan positioned his decision as a boon for the party, noting that he would continue fund-raising, and telling reporters, "I really do not believe whether I stay or go in 2019 is going to affect a person's individual race for Congress". All the analysts are saying you're going to have a blue wave.

And while Scalise has said in the past that he wouldn't challenge McCarthy for the GOP's top spot, members were under the impression that Scalise may be reconsidering that stance now that Ryan's departure is assured.

Ryan's statement, presented as an off-hand comment, comes as a surprise.

"I think the reality of the situation is this is D.C. There are a lot of "Type A" personalities here", said Representative Tom Reed, a New York Republican.

The chair of the House Republican conference has the best chance of any woman to win the job, and it is a slim one, which is a fair summary of the current state of her party. But the whip's aides said while he and Ryan spoke Thursday morning, Scalise said nothing privately that differed from his public remarks, seemingly suggesting Ryan had gone too far.

Ryan set off this leadership scramble Wednesday when he announced his retirement from Congress, and he reiterated Thursday that he intends to remain speaker through the rest of the year, despite a small group of lawmakers already pushing to hold leadership elections sooner. "It is obviously in our interest to keeping our majority that every player is on the field fighting for this majority, raising for this majority and it makes no sense to take the biggest fundraiser off the field and I think nearly all our members see it that way as well".