Kevin McCarthy

The majority leader believes he’s closing in on the 218 votes he needs to succeed John Boehner as speaker.


By Jake Sherman , Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan
10/06/15 – 08:08 PM EDT

With the rest of the House Republican Conference in a state of turmoil, Kevin McCarthy is projecting a sunny sense of confidence going into his first battle for speaker.

More than 200 Republicans have committed to supporting him for speaker, according to multiple sources familiar with his operation. It far surpasses the simple majority of House Republicans he needs to win Thursday’s internal GOP vote but is still a bit shy of the 218 he needs on the House floor to become the next speaker. His team is exceedingly optimistic he’ll gather the requisite support before the Oct. 29 public vote.

Over the weekend, McCarthy headed to Hot Springs, Virginia, for his annual fall political action committee fundraising weekend. Surrounded by close allies from the business community, a relaxed McCarthy made short remarks and didn’t discuss his leadership election. Virginia Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Morgan Griffith attended the event with McCarthy.

In a brief interview with POLITICO on Tuesday, McCarthy said he felt “very good” about his prospects heading into Thursday’s vote. Asked as he exited the weekly Republican leadership meeting whether he’ll win the race on the first ballot — a near certainty — McCarthy asked a reporter, “What do you think?” and flashed a grin.

As McCarthy nears his election, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and his chief deputy, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, saw their campaigns for leadership posts turn from a sprint into a marathon after Speaker John Boehner delayed lower-tier contests for three weeks. Scalise is favored for majority leader; his opponent, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, has not announced a significant number of public endorsements.

But Scalise faces a major challenge in holding together his coalition for several more weeks at a minimum, time that conservatives can use to draft an alternative candidate. If the House Freedom Caucus fails, however, to draft someone new into the race, Scalise will likely ascend to the No. 2 slot in November.

McHenry’s allies believe he’s wrapped up the whip race. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, Florida Rep. Dennis Ross and Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin are also vying for the slot.

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