Source: McCarthy allies worried about drawn-out leadership fight

Here are the stories our D.C. insiders are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a g...

Posted: Apr 16, 2018 8:49 AM
Updated: Apr 16, 2018 8:49 AM

Here are the stories our D.C. insiders are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow's headlines today.

1. RNC's $250 million midterm plan

Republicans are worried about an enthusiasm gap in November; Democrats are much more fired up about the midterms. But the Republican National Committee hopes to close that gap by pouring a quarter-billion dollars into its ground game.

"This really underscores a couple of things," the AP's Julie Pace reports. "One, the RNC remains a fundraising juggernaut despite a lot of the worries about the midterms. But two, it does underscore those worries. Republicans are incredibly nervous about this enthusiasm we are seeing," Pace says.

"They are really concerned about the impact this could have on the Trump presidency if Democrats take control of Congress."

2. Missouri governor echoes Trump

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens is facing criminal invasion of privacy charges related to an affair he had before taking office. And a new report from the state legislature accuses him of subjecting the woman to nonconsensual sexual activity and violence.

But Greitens says he won't resign, and he's calling the whole thing a "witch hunt." Sound familiar?

The New York Times' Jonathan Martin has spoken to a source who has talked directly with Greitens, and reports the Missouri governor "is consciously echoing the language of the President in his public remarks defending himself against these accusations," Martin says.

"The attempt here basically is to test whether or not other politicians can do what President Trump does, which is basically deny everything, attack your accusers, and hope that the base of your party will basically side with you."

3. Will Congress protect Mueller?

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing a law that would make it much tougher for the President to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. So far it doesn't have the support of the Republican leadership, but that could change.

"The question is going to be, can these two sides -- Democrats and Republicans -- actually trust each other enough to get this done?" says Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian.

4. Trump and the GOP leadership race

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he'll hang up his gavel at the end of the year, and wants his deputy, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to succeed him. But that doesn't make it a done deal. Members of the House Freedom Caucus are pushing one of their own, Rep. Jim Jordan.

That's why McCarthy wants to enlist a key ally: President Donald Trump.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has spoken to top White House aides. They "tell me he is going to stay on the sidelines of this potential speaker's fight. He's not going to get engaged, but we do know he is close to Kevin McCarthy. And Kevin McCarthy is eager to get the President's support," Zeleny says. "He wants that endorsement bad."

5. Ryan: I won't leave early

House Speaker Paul Ryan is as adamant in private as he has been in public about keeping hold of the gavel through January, GOP sources say, all but killing an initial push by McCarthy allies for a quick leadership vote.

As CNN's John King reports, even before Ryan's public announcement last week that he would not seek re-election, McCarthy allies began promoting the virtue of a quick election, even giving just after the Memorial Day break as a target.

"Because a six-month leadership race further splits the conference," an outside McCarthy ally told CNN in the minutes after word of Ryan's decision broke. "A quick smooth transition is best and limits the likelihood of a challenge from the Freedom Caucus."

Ryan, though, says he wants to "run through the tape," and those public comments about serving as speaker through January have held up in private conversations as well.

"Speaker says staying speaker to the end," the same McCarthy ally said in a Saturday email exchange about the House GOP leadership situation.

Ryan is on record backing McCarthy's rise to the top House GOP leadership slot, and there is nothing to suggest there will be any credible push or pressure for Ryan to reconsider his plan to keep the gavel through his term.

So McCarthy allies are preparing for a longer campaign, and with that time comes some uncertainty: If Republicans lose the House in November, a January House GOP election would be to pick a minority leader, not a speaker. And while McCarthy is the clear early favorite, his allies worry a big election loss could affect the mood -- and the math -- for that vote.

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