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All eyes on Paul Ryan as House Republicans meet

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Posted at 10:18 AM, Oct 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-09 10:18:00-04

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Paul Ryan walked into a closed-door House Republican conference meeting Friday morning without giving any public indication whether he wants to be the next speaker of the House.

He left the same way.

Ryan did not address the conference, multiple lawmakers said, the second such meeting in two days as the House GOP tries to find a solution to its leadership void left by the upcoming resignation of Speaker John Boehner, and shock decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to drop out of the race.

“Paul’s looking at it but it’s his decision,” McCarthy said on CNN. “If he decides to do it, he’ll be an amazing speaker but he’s got to decide on his own.”

To reporters, Ryan Friday morning declined to say where he stands. “I’ve got nothing to add, nothing to say,” he said outside his office.

Boehner indicated he will stay as long as possible in the speaker’s job, although he still wants to “be out of here by the end of the month,” Rep. Dennis Ross said, adding that Boehner urged members to “hang in there.”

And addressing rumors that he might step down as majority leader, McCarthy told his fellow Republicans he plans to remain in the job, a source in the room said.

The meeting was centered on the rules and process going forward, members said.

“We are doing what needs to be done, said Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia. “And Kevin (McCarthy) spoke very eloquently this morning and said ‘If this causes us to do what we need to do in terms of reforming the rules and the House rules. Then that’s a good thing.”

All about Ryan

As the surprise of McCarthy’s decision not to seek the top job wore off Thursday afternoon, eyes turned to Ryan, the former vice presidential nominee and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Influential and well-respected throughout the GOP caucus, Ryan could be a peacemaker between the warring factions.

Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, also wants Ryan in the job.

“I think eventually Paul Ryan will get into this thing, I really do,” Cole said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I think we’ve had two guys fall on their swords for the good of the conference, in this case it’s hard not to step up when there’s an overwhelming demand.”

And for good measure, he added an appeal to Ryan’s sense of duty.

“Paul’s got a strong sense of doing the right thing,” Cole said. “I’m just so confident he’ll make the right choice.”

Boehner and Ryan have a long relationship: Ryan volunteered for Boehner’s campaign when he was a student at Miami University in Ohio in the 1990s, before launching his own political career. But Boehner has not publicly called on Ryan to replace him.

On paper, Ryan is a strong candidate. The Ways and Means Committee chairman and Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012 is respected throughout the conference and on paper could bridge the gap between tea party-linked conservatives and more establishment Republicans.

But his backing among the current House leadership could be a drag on his candidacy, as the conservative backlash against Boehner’s team shows no sign of abating.

Conservatives do praise many of Ryan’s policy positions, yet are already warning Ryan would need to agree to a series of demands to change House rules and agree to their policy agenda.

Chaffetz won’t run if Ryan does

Friday morning, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican whose candidacy helped draw people away from McCarthy, said he would drop out of the race if Ryan runs, a sign conservatives are willing to rally behind the Wisconsin Republican.

“He’s certainly in my mind the most qualified person to do it and I hope he’ll do it,” Chaffetz said on MSNBC.

Other names that Cole said could be viable if Ryan stands firm and doesn’t run, include Minnesota Rep. John Kline and Georgia Reps. Lynn Westmoreland and Tom Price. Westmoreland told CNN he was considering it. And Cole’s own name has been floated by his peers — something he said Thursday he wouldn’t rule out, though he said there were “better” options than himself.

And Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Florida, who won the Freedom Caucus’ endorsement, also remains a candidate.