Holy schnikes.

He didn’t have 218 votes — yet — but that seemed less like an insuperable obstacle and than a problem that could be solved by a little wheeling and dealing with the House Freedom Caucus. Something’s up here. Stand by for updates.

Update: Huh.

He thought he was the right person until yesterday, when Dick Cheney endorsed him, and now suddenly he’s not?

Update: I’d be remiss if I didn’t note this story from yesterday, but let me also note up front that there’s no reason to think Walter Jones was aiming this at McCarthy. It could be a sheer coincidence.

North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones (R) sent a letter to the No. 4 House Republican saying any candidate for leadership who has committed any “misdeeds” since joining Congress should “withdraw” from the contest.

Jones, a 20-year veteran of Washington, is referring to marital infidelity, and made reference to former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who stepped down due to an affair before he was slated to become speaker, and Newt Gingrich.

“With all the voter distrust of Washington felt around the country, I am asking that any candidate for Speaker of the House, majority leader, and majority whip withdraw himself from the leadership election if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself, the Republican Conference and the House of Representatives if they become public,” Jones wrote in a letter to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).

Jones told Politico that he wasn’t referring to anyone specific, just broadly reminding the contenders for Speaker not to embarrass the caucus with scandal, but that’s a weird statement to issue if there’s not something particular on your mind.

Update: Boehner’s friend Tom Cole said recently that he’d stay on as Speaker until a successor is chosen. Now that the election for Speaker’s been postponed, that means Boehner will have more time to make deals with Democrats with no fear of reprisal from his caucus. How much time is unclear.

Update: Paul Ryan for Speaker? Nope.

Update: So much sadness.

Update: Hmmmmmm.

Speaking after the surprising meeting, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., declined to say why McCarthy might have made the sudden switch. One reporter asked if it had anything to do with a letter from Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., which said all speaker candidates should come clean about any skeletons they have in their closet.

Jones told the Washington Examiner that he didn’t know if his letter had any impact on McCarthy’s decision.

Issa dodged that question, and said simply that McCarthy realized he wouldn’t be able to wint he 218 votes he needed on the House floor.

If there is a skeleton in his closet — and rumors are flying on Twitter — it was silly of him to seek a leadership position in the first place. It’ll still come out now that the media’s digging to solve the mystery of why he withdrew from the Speaker’s race. And once it does, what then? Does he quit as majority leader? Does he quit Congress?

Update: Peter Suderman of Reason points to this prophetic joke that an unwitting Boehner told a few days ago: “I had this terrible nightmare last night that I was trying to get out and I couldn’t get out.”

Update: A verrrrrry sudden decision, it seems:

Update: Dent is a Boehner ally and so he’s probably just grousing about conservative influence in the Speaker’s race in saying this, but for what it’s worth:

Update: For what it’s worth, McCarthy denied that Walter Jones’s letter was a factor in his decision to drop out. As for possible replacements, names like Tom Price, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, and Peter Roskam are being kicked around right now by commentators. No one expects Jason Chaffetz or Daniel Webster, who were longshots against McCarthy, to be major factors at the moment.

Update: Is Ryan the only guy acceptable to both sides? I’m not so sure he’d make the cut within the Freedom Caucus either.