Republicans Worry About Paul’s Seat in Kentucky

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “is under increasing pressure from Republicans here and in Washington to pull the plug on his stagnant presidential campaign and instead recommit his resources to keeping his Senate seat in GOP hands,” Politico reports.

“D.C. Republicans think Paul’s poll numbers have flat-lined — and operatives worried about retaining control of the Senate are ready for him to start spending a lot more time in Kentucky and a lot less time in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Paul Ryan Stays on the Sidelines for Now

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) “left his colleagues guessing Friday about whether he would run for House speaker, declining to speak at a closed-door session of the Republican caucus where lawmakers hoped to find a path uniting their warring ranks,” the Washington Post reports.

“Ryan never spoke during the nearly 90-minute meeting, according to lawmakers and aides, and just one lawmaker, a freshman from Pennsylvania, said Ryan’s name. An hour after the session broke up, the 2012 vice presidential nominee’s aide issued a statement saying that Ryan still was not ready to run for an office that would place him second in the line of president.”

The New York Times reports that several GOP lawmakers “said they believed Mr. Ryan was softening his position and would return to Wisconsin to discuss the situation with his family and closest advisers.”

Ellmers Addresses Rumors of Affair with McCarthy

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) stood up in a private meeting of Republican lawmakers on Friday and thanked them for their “prayers and support” after they received “nasty emails” accusing her of having an extramarital affair with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Politico reports.

“She did not mention McCarthy by name, detail the content of the emails or provide any other information. Sources close to Ellmers and McCarthy say the accusation is unfounded, and assert that it is being spread by a discredited troublemaker. McCarthy has publicly denied that any personal problems were behind his stunning decision to withdraw from the speaker’s race on Thursday.”

Will Paul Ryan Take the Job?

First Read: “As of this writing, there’s a very good chance we’ll see Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, relent and take the speaker’s job — even if temporarily — even though he and his office have tried to shut the door at every opportunity. On MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ this morning, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said he was fairly confident that Ryan would take the job. So why would Ryan take it, despite all of his earlier statements? It might come down to this: If not him, then who? But the window to pressure Ryan might be short — if House Republicans don’t get him to acquiesce today, then there is the possibility he’s able to close the door once and for all.”

“It’s worth pointing out: House Republican rebels and the House Freedom Caucus have now gotten three political scalps over the past year — Eric Cantor (who lost his primary in 2014), John Boehner (who announced he’s stepping down two weeks ago), and Kevin McCarthy (who yesterday abandoned his bid to run for speaker). The House GOP’s original 1-2-3 are essentially gone.”

Rubio Gets Big Boost from Dark Money

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) “is benefiting in unprecedented ways from a nonprofit group funded by anonymous donors,” the AP reports.

“While other presidential candidates also have ties to secret-money groups, the Rubio arrangement is the boldest. Every pro-Rubio television commercial so far in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina has been paid for not by his campaign or even by a super PAC that identifies its donors, but instead by a nonprofit called Conservative Solutions Project. It’s also sending Rubio-boosting mail to voters in those same states.”

Republicans Meet Amid Turmoil

“House Republicans will meet Friday morning at the Capitol to begin charting a path forward after Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California’s stunning withdrawal from the race for speaker dashed expectations of an orderly succession and threw Congress deeper into turmoil,” the New York Times reports.

“The struggle to restore order to their leadership comes as they confront major fiscal issues with rapidly approaching deadlines, and Republican leaders are casting about for a candidate for speaker who can both bring along restive conservatives and maintain the backing of the far larger ranks of the rest of their conference.”

Wonk Wire: Why (Republican) House Speaker is the worst job in Congress

Cruz Says Trump Won’t Be Nominee

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that “he did not think Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee, his harshest criticism yet of a candidate he has assiduously avoided even brushing with judgment,” CNN reports.

Said Cruz: “I think that, in time, I don’t believe Donald is going to be the nominee and I think, in time, the lion’s share of his supporters end up with us.”

He added: “If you look to the records of all the Republican candidates, there’s a big difference between my record and that of everyone else if you ask, who has stood up to Washington? I think his involvement has been tremendously helpful to my campaign, because it’s framed the central question of this primary.”

Christie Says No One Cares About the House Speaker

Gov. Chris Christie (R) said that “nobody in America cares” who holds the title of speaker of the U.S. House, continuing his attacks on the gridlock in Washington, D.C. from the presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire, the Boston Globe reports.

Said Christie: “I don’t think it matters. Nobody in America cares… What the American people want is a Congress that actually does something.”