(ABCNEWS) — Despite the fact that Paul Ryan pulled his name out consideration in the search for the next House Speaker, the Wisconsin Republican is emerging as the favorite among Republican members as the face capable of uniting a divided GOP conference.
Emerging from a closed door conference meeting this morning, several Republican members expressed their advance support for Ryan should he enter the race.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R- Utah, who had launched a long shot bid challenging McCarthy for the speakership, told reporters that he would take himself out of the running if Ryan were to get in.
“I would not run against Paul Ryan,” Chaffetz said when asked if he’d drop out should Ryan enter the race.
The calls for Ryan to seek the top job in Congress come a day after California Rep. Kevin McCarthy pulled the plug on his own bid to replace the current Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner on the same day that members were slated to vote for Boehner’s successor. McCarthy was widely expected to win the race, but he made the surprise decision to pull out after his team determined he only had 175 to 200 House Republicans whom they could count on voting for him, well short of the 218 needed.
“If Paul Ryan got into the race, of course I’d support him, he’d be the kind of person I could get excited about,” Chaffetz added. “One of the reasons I got into the race was that people like Paul Ryan weren’t stepping up to do it.”
California Rep. Darrell Issa, who had entertained the idea of entering the race himself earlier on Friday morning, said after the meeting that he did “everything except carry his gym bag this morning” in trying to convince Ryan to throw his name into the ring.
“The fact is, Paul Ryan is the right man right now, he has moderate support and he very clearly has conservative support,” Issa said. “Members of the Freedom Caucus have come to me one after the other saying, ‘Let Paul know we would be with him.’ That’s a very good sign after the strained relations that John Boehner had with that same caucus.”
The Freedom Caucus, which forced Boehner’s resignation announcement, was also a driving force behind McCarthy’s surprise to decision to pull out the race. While the majority of Republicans had backed McCarthy’s bid, roughly 40 members of the House Freedom Caucus pledged to oppose McCarthy on a House floor vote later this month, depriving him of the 218 votes needed to win Boehner’s gavel.
Those hardliners showed no indication they would let up the against the California Republican in upcoming fights over raising the debt ceiling and funding the government.
Despite his sudden withdrawal from the race on Thursday, New York Rep. Peter King told reporters that McCarthy joked during Friday’s conference meeting that he slept very well last night.
Pointing to Ryan as the man best equipped to reach compromise among the divergent wings of the Republican Party, Issa expressed hope that Ryan would officially enter the race.
“I think at the end of the day, or the end of the week, Paul Ryan will be our speaker presumptive,” Issa told reporters after emerging from the Republican conference on Capitol Hill Friday morning.
Ryan said in a statement Thursday morning that he was not running for speaker, and by the end of the day, he said his statement remained unchanged.
“I just don’t have any answers for you right now,” Ryan told reporters as he left his committee office Thursday night. “My statement stands, I haven’t changed anything.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, of South Carolina, had also been floated as a potential candidate following McCarthy’s withdrawal. Gowdy has said he has no interest in the job. But that didn’t stop his supporters from pressing them to lead the House.
“I’m going to keep asking him to run,” Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said on Thursday of her pleas to Gowdy.