Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has little more than a week left to decide whether he will run for reelection next year.
That decision, the congressman said, will ultimately come down to a “gut call.”
The former House speaker has until Dec. 8 to file the necessary paperwork to declare his candidacy, but after a tumultuous year that saw him become the third-shortest-serving speaker in American history, the Republican is still weighing his options.
“If I’m walking away from something that I spent two decades at, I don’t want to look back and say I made an emotional decision,” he said at The New York Times DealBook Summit in New York on Nov. 29.
Mr. McCarthy said his goal as the leader of the Republican conference in the House had been to diversify the party. Contrasting his fellow Republicans against their Democrat counterparts, he said he felt the Democrats looked like America, whereas the GOP looked like a country club.
Ultimately, however, it was his leadership style that cost him the gavel, as several hardliners in his conference said he had failed to uphold his end of the deal he struck to secure their votes for speaker.
For Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who led the charge to oust Mr. McCarthy, the California congressman’s agreement to pass a stopgap spending bill on Sept. 30 to avert a government shutdown was the final nail in the coffin.
“Speaker McCarthy made an agreement with House conservatives in January and since then he’s been in brazen, repeated material breach of that agreement,” Mr. Gaetz said on Oct. 1. “This agreement that he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we set up is a last straw.”
A ‘Better’ PresidentAt the summit, Mr. McCarthy addressed not only his own political future but also that of former President Donald Trump.
Noting that he intends to vote for President Trump in 2024, he said that under the former president’s direction, “America would be stronger.”
The 45th president served as a key ally for Mr. McCarthy when he first sought the speakership at the beginning of the year. Over the objections of some of his strongest supporters in the House—and even after three failed votes—President Trump stood by the congressman his hour of need, urging House Republicans to do the same.
“Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a great job - just watch!” he assured via his Truth Social platform.
Amid Mr. McCarthy’s removal in October, President Trump was more lukewarm in his support, only expressing frustration over Republicans’ infighting.
But on Wednesday, the former speaker said he did not expect President Trump to support him in that fight and revealed that the two now have an “interesting” relationship.
When asked whether he thinks President Trump would be a great president, he paused before saying: “I didn’t say he’d be a great president. He’ll be a better president.”
Primary ChallengerIf Mr. McCarthy does choose to run again, he will need to defend his seat against primary challenger David Giglio.
A self-proclaimed “America First Republican,” Mr. Giglio is a small business owner who already boasts endorsements from prominent Trump allies, including political operative Roger Stone and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
“I am excited to announce my campaign to defeat Kevin McCarthy in California’s 20th Congressional District,” Mr. Giglio said in an Oct. 30 statement.
“After years of being sold out to special interests, the people of the Central Valley deserve an America First Republican fighting for them in Washington and working alongside President Donald Trump to wage war against the corrupt uniparty!”
Praising the congressmen who ousted Mr. McCarthy as “courageous,” he said it was “imperative that we replace career politicians and elect America First Republicans who will secure the southern border, stop the weaponization of government, drain the corrupt swamp, and annihilate permanent Washington.”
Frank Fang and Bill Pan contributed to this report.