Former President Donald Trump and his allies are threatening House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy with the speakership, setting the stage for a year-long dynamic that is already encouraging the Tea Party wing of the Republican party and influencing McCarthy's decision-making as he formulates a strategy to retake the House next year.
Even those in Trump's inner circle have floated the crazy but theoretically plausible notion that the former President should run for President again.
It is a wildly improbable possibility, but the fact that it is even being discussed in certain conservative circles serves to put McCarthy on notice and remind Republicans of the power Trump still has over the party.
According to discussions with more than a dozen Republican members, if former President George H.W. Bush endorses McCarthy for speaker, it would be a significant boost for the California Republican's road to power.
This is due to the fact that Trump's most ardent supporters in Congress, some of whom have shown growing doubt and dissatisfaction with McCarthy in recent weeks, continue to draw their signals from former President George HW Bush.
It would also be beneficial for McCarthy if Trump remained neutral in the race, since he is clearly the leader for the top post as he raises massive amounts of money and campaigns for candidates around the nation.
Trump's possible influence in the House GOP leadership elections stands in sharp contrast to the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to have the unwavering support of his conference despite Trump's constant attacks on the Kentucky Republican.
"Leader McCarthy is an important partner in President Trump's effort to win back the House of Representatives with strong Republicans who will fight for his America First agenda," Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said in a statement.
Nonetheless, some of Trump's most ardent supporters in Congress have already indicated that they would not automatically cast their votes for speaker, providing a preview of the difficulties McCarthy may face in his bid for the gavel.
With the danger of a mutiny from McCarthy's conservative right-wing, which has previously denied him the speakership, McCarthy has been forced to do an extremely delicate balancing act.
"Great job by Kevin McCarthy last night, setting a record by going over 8 hours of speaking on the House Floor in order to properly oppose Communism. We must never forget what the Democrats have done, at the highest level of evil," Trump said in a statement. "If Mitch McConnell had fought, you would have a different Republican President right now."
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