Some conservatives, like Michigan’s Justin Amash, don’t appear willing to consider McCarthy at all. “He hasn’t earned the trust to be speaker of the House,” Amash tells me. And Kentucky libertarian Thomas Massie argues that any member who supported the recently passed $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill should automatically be out of the running. “If you followed this leadership off of that cliff,” Massie says, “then you are not qualified to lead us around the next.” As well, it doesn’t help McCarthy’s cause with conservatives that Ohio Republican and founding Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan is seriously considering a run.
Chaffetz doesn’t offer a clear answer as to how he would vote if he were still in the House. He says his decision would depend on who else chooses to run, but he notes that McCarthy has done a lot to support Republican candidates on the campaign trail. “I’m not anti-Kevin McCarthy,” he hedges. “I just feel like there should be a choice and there really ought to be a dialogue around where we’re going and how to do things better.”