Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan. (Photo: Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced he would not run for re-election to Congress in November. Although Ryan said he was not resigning and would serve until his term ends in January (at least for now), speculation about who'll win the battle to replace him as Speaker began instantly.

Who will be the next Speaker of the House?

One parameter in the race: Republicans are widely expected to lose the House in November. So whoever replaces Ryan would be the Minority Leader in that scenario. If current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi remains in her position, she would likely re-emerge as House Speaker, six years after she ceded the gavel when Republicans took control of Congress.

Who will replace Paul Ryan?

For the sake of argument: If Ryan left tomorrow, who would be the next Speaker of the House? These are the current front-runners for GOP leader.

Kevin McCarthy

The Congressman from California as tipped to replace Ryan's predecessor, John Boehner, when he resigned in October 2015. But amid concerns his moderate nature, McCarthy was passed over by the GOP. Now the #2 House Republican's name has surfaced at the top of the list again. McCarthy has aligned himself closely with Trump in recent months, working with him on potential legislation and defending him on TV. (Infamously, he even had an aide fill a jar with only pink and orange Starburst candies, Trump's favorite flavors, to give him as a gift.) McCarthy has also been cozying up to the far-right House Freedom Caucus. Both moves could cinch the job for him.


Steve Scalise

Consensus puts the Louisiana representative, the current #3 Republican in Congress, in second position to McCarthy. The Hill reported after Ryan's announcement that McCarthy and Scalise "had already begun jockeying behind the scenes in case Ryan decided to call it quits after the midterms." Scalise recently returned to Congress after narrowly surviving a shooting during Congressional baseball practice last year, which has given him heroic stature. But Scalise has said that he'll stand down if McCarthy wants the gig.

The dark horses

CBS News reports that McCarthy and Scalise "have both made it clear they want the job." Both look like safe bets for re-election, so it's a two-man race at the moment. But November is a long way off, and other names have surfaced as potential contenders. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-OR), the only woman in House GOP leadership, has expressed interest. But the race in her district has tightened up, and it's uncertain whether she'll be re-elected. Other names in the mix: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-OH).

But Slate points out you have to know what the job is before you predict who'll take it. Whether the Republicans keep or lose the House could determine who gets the top spot. McCarthy may not want to be Minority Leader. And Speaker requires 228 votes for approval; Minority Leader only 110. The latter race could widen the field, calling off the top bets.

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