A source close to the White House said Trump’s advisors are concerned that the endorsement could complicate the contest, and Trump’s future relationship with the next GOP leader should his preferred candidate lose or decide not to run.
“They don’t want him to end up with another black eye,” the source said. “They don’t want [Trump] to get involved. It’s another fight they don’t need.”
Last week at a dinner at the White House with GOP leadership the president approached McCarthy and asked him directly if he wanted to be the next speaker of the House, according to one source familiar with the conversation. This source said McCarthy left the dinner feeling he had the support of the president should he decide to run.
Aides to McCarthy declined to comment on the exchange, or the possibility of an endorsement from Trump.
“He may have a preference who he would like to work with,” said Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pennsylvania. “But the decision will be made internally by the members.”
McCarthy is the favorite to lead the House GOP conference and was endorsed by Ryan in an interview with NBC News last week.
“We all think Kevin is the right person,” he said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The Louisiana Republican, who survived a shooting at a congressional baseball practice last June, has been urged to consider a bid by colleagues, and is quietly positioning himself to run for the top job should McCarthy struggle to lock up the requisite support.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, has said he is also being urged to consider a bid. While it's unlikely Jordan can muster the votes to win the gavel, his possible candidacy is a signal that McCarthy could face some resistance in an official race without making concessions to conservatives.
So far, Trump has not publicly weighed in on the leadership contest. After Ryan’s surprise retirement announcement, Trump hosted GOP leaders, including Ryan and McCarthy – and, after a late invite, Scalise – at the White House for dinner last week.
Ryan has repeatedly insisted that he plans to finish his term, dismissing criticism that he will be a lame-duck speaker and speculation that he could leave Capitol Hill before November. “I intend to run through the tape, to finish the year,” he told reporters last week at a news conference.