Between his falling out with Donald Trump and his ongoing standoff with the House Freedom Caucus, some Republicans are speculating that Ryan might just step aside if he can’t muster the votes. The question preoccupying everyone’s mind: Who would replace him if that happens?
The biggest name waiting in the wings is Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a Ryan ally who made an aborted bid for the job last year. But the question marks surrounding McCarthy haven’t gone away, GOP insiders say. Other possibilities include someone else from the current leadership ranks or a compromise candidate from the backbenches.
Any of the alternatives lack the star power of Ryan and would probably have an even harder time corralling the unruly Republican conference. Plus, there’s the major question of whether any of them can actually get to 218 — the number of votes needed to take the gavel.
Ryan and his allies insist he’s not focused on anything but keeping the House majority. They’re confident he would win a floor vote for speaker in January. But with a smaller majority, it might take only a dozen hard-line conservatives refusing to vote for him to deny Ryan another term as speaker.