GOP Rep. John Fleming: Trey Gowdy is retiring after this term

Gowdy’s office is denying it — sort of. Noting that he hasn’t made an “announcement” yet isn’t the same as saying he hasn’t made a decision yet, is it?

“No, he has not made any announcement about 2016,” Amanda Duvall, a Gowdy spokeswoman, said in an email…

A GOP member on Wednesday said Fleming likely misconstrued a comment Gowdy made Tuesday night at a House Republican Conference meeting.

“Trey said something like, ‘I have no ambition for leadership, want to do my job on the select committee, and long to return home to my family in South Carolina.’ But to construe that as a retirement announcement is a real stretch. I think he just said that he misses being away from his family,” the GOP member said.

I don’t know about that. Fleming seems pretty confident in his understanding, right down to the timeline (“at the end of his term”). If there was anything ambiguous about what Gowdy had said, either publicly in the conference meeting or privately to Fleming, would he seem as assured as he does here? It’s no small thing for one congressman to spill the beans about another’s looming retirement. Another reason to think Fleming’s right: Nikki Haley is term-limited as governor of South Carolina. The next election is in 2018 and Gowdy would be well positioned to run as a guy with national name recognition as a conservative firebrand and the chairman of the Benghazi committee that’s chasing Hillary. Maybe the plan is to quit Congress after three terms and then spend the next two years running for governor — precisely the same path that Mark Sanford followed earlier in his career. Gowdy’s a young guy too at just 51. If he succeeded Haley and built a good executive record, he’d be a credible presidential candidate circa 2024 or 2028.

There sure do seem to be a lot of surprising, possibly half-baked stories lately about Gowdy’s next move, though, don’t there? Yesterday we had Jason Chaffetz kinda sorta drafting him on Fox News to run for majority leader, which Gowdy rejected in yesterday’s GOP meeting. Today we get Fleming saying he’s on his way out — and now this:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tried to recruit Rep. Trey Gowdy to run to be the next House majority leader, the Washington Examiner has confirmed.

The move has the potential to shake up a race that so far has Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., running against House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga.

John Boehner’s so unhappy with both Scalise and Tom Price, neither one of whom has been a major thorn in the leadership’s side, that he felt obliged to try to draft Trey Gowdy into the race? Huh. I saw a rumor floating around Twitter yesterday that one reason some people are whispering about Gowdy for majority leader is that they fear he might make a move to try to run against McCarthy as Speaker instead. He’d be a more formidable challenger to McCarthy than Daniel Webster would, so the idea is to steer him into the majority leader’s role in the name of protecting McCarthy. Surely, though, if Gowdy really was eyeing retirement after this term, word about that would have gotten around already and Boehner wouldn’t have bothered pitching him on the idea. So the question remains: Why was Boehner trying to draft Gowdy? Or is that rumor bogus too?

Update: Mick Mulvaney, a colleague of Gowdy’s in the South Carolina caucus, claims he just spoke to Gowdy and is emphatic in his denial of the rumors:

Update: Ah, and here’s why Boehner wants Gowdy for majority leader:

Many Republicans close to Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy believe Gowdy could help protect the California Republican’s right flank. McCarthy allies fear hard-line conservatives could block his ascent to the speaker’s chair during the vote on the House floor, throwing the chamber into turmoil.

Gowdy would be a consolation prize to the right during McCarthy’s ascension and a heat shield from the base going forward.

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