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“No one will work harder than Congressman Price at building a strong and compelling communications and policy strategy that reflects the will of our membership and the needs of the nation,” Ryan wrote.
If Price does best McMorris Rodgers, it would show that Ryan’s influence might outweigh that of his own party leaders. That comes as he seeks a waiver to stay past his term limit as chairman of the Budget Committee, where he could drive the discussion about taxes and spending in the lame-duck session — possibly further to the right than what leadership wants.
Although Ryan had pledged his support to Price before being drafted onto the presidential ticket, the public endorsement now comes with some awkwardness. McMorris Rodgers was a top congressional liaison for the failed presidential bid, and there was some expectation that although Ryan had already pledged support for Price, he would stay out of the campaign when or if he returned to Capitol Hill.
“Everything that the congresswoman did for the Romney-Ryan ticket, and then to think this is Ryan’s way of saying, ‘Thank you,’ for going to all the battleground states and putting in work for him,” said a source familiar with McMorris Rodgers’ campaign.
The campaign has held a meeting with members who are whipping up support for her and has been working the phones to ensure that the letter from Ryan hasn’t lured any rank-and-file members out of her corner.
They are also more actively pushing the idea that it would be beneficial for the party to have a woman in a top leadership spot, particularly after Republicans lost big in that demographic on Election Day.
If McMorris Rodgers proves successful in her bid, it might indicate a Republican Conference more willing to help its leadership along, especially in a climate where everyone acknowledges that leaders will have to work with Democrats to pass any substantive legislation.
Still, for all the uncertainty about who will become the fourth-ranking GOP leader, a direct challenge to Boehner is off the table, several sources said. Notwithstanding recent griping from a few members about the public posture Boehner has taken in negotiations with the White House over the fiscal cliff, Boehner is certain to retain the speakership.
Even Rep. John Fleming, R-La., who publicly questioned the speaker’s comments about immigration reform and allowing revenue as part of a deficit bargain, said he sees no chance that he will be seriously challenged. “It’s always possible someone would challenge him, but I wouldn’t see that as successful,” he said.
The days also seem to be gone when speculation about whether Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., or even perhaps Ryan himself, would try to wrest the gavel from Boehner, according to several sources.
“I think that could have worked if we lost, let’s say, 20 seats in the House,” said one conservative aide. “There’s no outrage out there against Boehner. People think the problems are elsewhere.”
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.