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Speaker Race

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Behind McCarthy’s decision to bail

‘They’re going to eat you and chew you up.’

The doubts haunted Kevin McCarthy.

Publicly, he projected an air of confidence, the appearance of the man who would be the next speaker of the House. But in private, his allies told him the pursuit for power was changing him and he wasn’t himself. Some said that even if he won, he couldn’t govern.

“We need somebody to get us 247,” McCarthy said in an extensive interview with POLITICO Thursday, referring to the total number of House Republicans. “And I was never going to be able to get 247.”

The majority leader’s longtime allies — the people he recruited and helped get elected to Congress — told him they were getting hammered back home, and that it would be difficult to back him on the House floor.

Other friends said McCarthy’s pursuit of the speaker’s gavel had become a staggering weight on his shoulders and was already starting to change him.

Conservatives — namely members of the House Freedom Caucus — were making demands he believed he simply couldn’t deliver on.

And, of course, there was Benghazi. The California Republican’s monumental blunder – his claim that the panel was created to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign – became an unavoidable distraction.

McCarthy went back and forth in his head, and with his staff. Should he stay in the race? Did he even want to? And with a limited mandate – winning the speakership with probably just 220 votes, essentially the bare minimum – could he be an effective speaker?



Source: Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan, http://www.politico.com