It looks like Bakersfield's Kevin McCarthy is going to get another shot at serving as speaker of the House.
With Paul Ryan's announcement that he will not seek re-election and thus will surrender the speakership in January, all eyes are on McCarthy, whose only rival at this point appears to be House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Scalise is extremely well-regarded, but McCarthy is perhaps closer to President Donald Trump than any member of the House or Senate — so much so that he has been mentioned as a possible White House chief of staff on two separate occasions. Which, of course, would be a considerable demotion.
McCarthy's office responded to requests for comment with a written statement that did not mention any possible plans to seek the speakership: “Paul is one of my best friends. He has fearlessly led this conference and championed ideas that are moving this country forward. We enacted generational tax reform, we are rebuilding our military, and we passed historic legislation to protect the lives of the most vulnerable. Paul’s leadership has pulled each of these and countless other victories across the finish line.
"Obviously, today is a sad day for me personally and for our conference, but Paul’s selfless leadership has put our conference and our country in a better place. There is more work to do this year, and we will do it together as a team. We will continue to carry the flag we carried as Young Guns, fighting every day to earn the support of the American people and continue to make our country stronger.”
Scalise likewise gave no indication he might be interested in the job.
"I don't think now is the time to talk about what titles people want," Scalise told reporters.
Ryan himself stayed out of it, too, though he seemed to suggest he might eventually endorse a replacement.
"I think this is probably not the right time to get into that," Ryan told the Los Angeles Times. "I'll share those thoughts later. That election is in November, so it's not something we have to sweat right now."
Even local supporters were reluctant to read too much into Ryan's announcement.
"It hasn't happened yet," said former Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, a close McCarthy ally. "Paul Ryan is still the speaker and Kevin would not want to do anything to damage that. But members of Congress know how hard Kevin has worked.
"I'm proud of him and what he's been able to accomplish in the last decade. He can travel around the U.S., travel around the world, and still come back and throw out the first pitch at the Little League game in Lake Isabella," said Grove, who is running for the soon-to-be-vacant 16th District seat in the state Senate.
McCarthy was the leading candidate for speaker in October 2015 when John Boehner retired from Congress, but the hyper-conservative House Freedom Caucus threatened to block him unless McCarthy supported their choice for a new majority leader.
It didn't help, either, that in a Fox News interview McCarthy appeared to confirm Democrats' charges that the Benghazi hearings were politically motivated — a way to damage Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid.
McCarthy pulled out of the running.
This all could be moot, however, if Democrats take back the House in November and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco returns as majority leader — or perhaps speaker. McCarthy, whose campaign treasure chest and fundraising abilities are substantial, is in the best position to prevent that from happening.
McCarthy, a graduate of Bakersfield High School and Cal State Bakersfield, tells a Horatio Alger story of hard work and better timing that brought him from humble beginnings as the operator of a small Bakersfield deli to the No. 2 job in the House.
His wife, Judy, is a BHS grad, as are both of his children.
McCarthy and Scalise, the No. 2 and No. 3 House GOP leaders, respectively, have both quietly run shadow campaigns to replace Ryan. If Trump becomes the deciding factor in who wins, McCarthy is in good shape.
McCarthy was one of the earliest and highest-profile members of Congress to back Trump in the 2016 presidential race, and he has worked doggedly ever since to earn the favor of the president, who has been known to call him “my Kevin.” More recently, McCarthy sorted through Starburst candies — or, presumably, had a staffer do it — to pick out Trump’s preferred pink and red ones, and he then sent a jar full to the White House for the president's chewing pleasure.
No gesture of support, apparently, is too trivial.
Might it land McCarthy a job that makes him second in succession to the president? We should know by November.