“I'm probably going to lose, but I'm okay with that.”
That’s a pretty surprising admission from someone who just announced they were running for Speaker of the House.
But House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said that kind of uncertainty is exactly why he thinks he could also become the replacement for outgoing speaker John Boehner.
In an interview with ABC News, Chaffetz acknowledged that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is the leader going into Thursday’s closed-door speaker elections, which are conducted in secret.
But the real test, Chaffetz said, is when McCarthy’s speakership is put to the entire House floor, where he needs 218 votes to win. Chaffetz said there are at least 50 conservatives who told him they won’t vote for McCarthy because they think McCarthy won't represent their interests.
“I think I can be palatable to those 50 people that won't and cannot vote for Kevin McCarthy," Chaffetz said. "They could and would vote for me. So the question is, would the rest of the group come along and support?”
Chaffetz said he’ll endorse McCarthy if he emerges from the GOP conference election as the front-runner. But the wildcard is what happens on the floor –- and Chaffetz wouldn’t commit to what happens then.
“That's my point. My point is we won't know what's going to happen on the floor. And that could be an ugly situation,” he said. “This happens with or without me.”
In a pen-and-pad briefing with reporters earlier Monday, Chaffetz said his support would have to come about “organically” among the Republican conference. He is not keeping an official whip count of supporters although he did say he’s already flipped several members who had already come out in support of McCarthy or Rep. Dan Webster, a third candidate.
Chaffetz said he told McCarthy in person on Friday that he was running and Chaffetz said he “wasn’t too happy.” But the Utah congressman says it’s just business.
“It’s nothing personal. I don't feel that I'm running against Kevin. I'm running for the speakership,” he said.