Former President Donald Trump has privately encouraged allies to back House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, according to two sources familiar with the effort, who believe the California Republican will be active if the former president finds himself in a situation. He contested the 2024 primaries.
House Republicans will meet Monday afternoon to discuss leadership candidates, and will hold a closed-door vote on Tuesday. McCarthy will need just a simple majority to advance from Tuesday’s vote, but the House vote for speaker will come when the new House convenes in January, at which point McCarthy will need 218 votes to win the speakership.
Trump reaffirmed his support for McCarthy’s leadership bid in an interview with Fox News last week and has since been working the phones to convince Republican allies to back him, particularly conservative members skeptical of McCarthy.
The news comes on the eve of Trump’s planned announcement of his third presidential campaign. The former president and the California Republican have spoken several times since the midterm elections, sources said, and McCarthy’s camp hopes Trump’s endorsement will help win over some of Trump’s staunchest supporters who have been critical of McCarthy.
Despite Trump’s campaign for McCarthy, he hasn’t completely broken up. Some of Trump’s staunchest allies have been all over the conservative media attacking McCarthy. However, one prominent Trump ally who will be on the ballot in the speaker race went on Steve Bannon’s podcast Monday and voiced her support for McCarthy: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, calling it a “bad strategy” and “dangerous.” challenge given McCarthy’s likely majority.
McCarthy has worked hard to court Greene, from holding weekly meetings with him in his office to promising better committee assignments after Democrats kicked him out of committees for inflammatory comments.
Meanwhile, Trump aides and allies have privately criticized Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, amid weak GOP midterm gains, especially in the House. CNN has yet to predict which party will control the lower chamber, though Republicans appear on track for a narrow majority in the House. Emmer is running against Rep. Jim Banks, an ally of Donald Trump Jr., for the House GOP whip.
“The strategy is to shield McCarthy from blame [Trump] he needs for his presidency,” said a Trump adviser.
Trump has been eager to lock in public support from Republicans for his third presidential bid, and a separate GOP source said he has asked to see if GOP lawmakers have endorsed him in the media. So far, House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik has been the highest-ranking Republican to officially endorse Trump’s 2024 bid.
Trump’s support for McCarthy is at odds with his relationship with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. GOP sources told CNN last week that Trump is calling on his Senate allies to oppose the Kentucky Republican ahead of Wednesday’s leadership election in that chamber.
A small but vocal group of GOP senators has called for the leadership election to be delayed so they can have a “family discussion” about why the GOP has done so poorly. And at least one Republican, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, has publicly vowed to oppose McConnell’s bid to become GOP leader.
McConnell has called on his colleagues in recent days to shore up his support as his team plans to press ahead with a leadership election on Wednesday. They plan to hold a GOP air-clearing session on Tuesday.
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a former chairman of the Trump House Freedom Caucus, is considering a long-shot challenge to McCarthy in Tuesday’s House GOP internal leadership election, according to GOP sources familiar with the matter. McCarthy’s team has prepared for this possibility.