C-SPAN via The Washington Post

Scratch House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy off the list of potential replacements for outgoing House Speaker John Boehner.

In a sudden and surprising move, McCarthy, who was widely considered the strongest contender for Boehner’s post, announced on Thursday that he was removing himself from the running. “I think there’s something to be said for us to unite; we probably need a fresh face,” McCarthy said in his public announcement. “I’ll stay on as majority leader, but the one thing I found in talking to everybody [is]: If we are gonna unite and be strong, we need a new face to help do that.”

The Washington Post reported that evening that McCarthy’s withdrawal left “infamously fractious” House Republicans “scrambling to find a new leader and deeply uncertain about how to effectively manage the House.” Here’s more from the Post’s write-up:

McCarthy’s candidacy to succeed the retiring Boehner (R-Ohio) was damaged in recent days by a public gaffe — a television interview in which he seemed to suggest that the Select Committee on Benghazi, the panel assembled by Republicans to investigate the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya, was intended to damage Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential poll numbers.

“Well, that wasn’t helpful. I could have said it much better,” McCarthy acknowledged after dropping out of the race. “That’s part of the decision as well.” McCarthy said he will remain in his post as majority leader and seek reelection in 2016.

Still, McCarthy, who had been Boehner’s preferred successor, had been expected to earn the votes he needed before heading to a vote of the full House. That left significant confusion about his last-minute withdrawal — and whom Republicans might rally around as an alternative for the nation’s third-highest job.

After McCarthy bowed out, Boehner reportedly contacted another popular GOP operator, Rep. Paul Ryan, to urge him to throw in, but Ryan declined.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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