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Trey Gowdy Leadership Candidacy Still a Big Question Mark

Chaffetz, R-Utah, left, speaks to Gowdy, R-S.C., in Sept. 2014 (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Chaffetz, R-Utah, left, speaks to Gowdy, R-S.C., in Sept. 2014 (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Would Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., serve as House majority leader?  

It’s not entirely clear.  

Fellow South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney, who called Gowdy his “best friend” in a scrum of reporters Tuesday morning, turned to Facebook shortly thereafter  to put the kibosh on the rumors.  

“I just talked to Trey for 20 minutes,” Mulvaney write. “He made it clear to me, in no uncertain terms, that upon further reflection last night and today, he is OUT of any consideration for any leadership position.”  

Mulvaney added that Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, just wants to focus on finishing his work as chairman of the special investigative committee on Benghazi: “He isn’t the kind of guy to leave a case midstream.”  

But Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who got the ball rolling with an endorsement of Gowdy for the chamber’s No. 2 leadership slot on Fox News earlier Tuesday, insisted later in the day he had spoken to Gowdy “as recently a few minutes ago.”  

“Trey Gowdy is not the kind of person who is gonna go out and overtly campaign for it,” Chaffetz told reporters. “But if the conference rallies behind him, I think he would reluctantly serve, and I and a lot of others believe that he would do the best job of uniting the conference and making the case to the American people.”  

Fellow Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love and Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., released statements Tuesday joining in the call to “draft” Gowdy for the majority leader position, which will become open if the current officeholder, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, wins his bid to succeed John A. Boehner as speaker.  

“He said that he would join. If he was asked to serve, he would serve,” Love said. “It’s a difference between going out and pushing for something and saying, ‘If this is something I’m asked to do, I would absolutely do it.’  

“I think it’s important to have someone who is not necessarily going out and pushing for the job, but someone who would be great for the job,” Love continued.  

South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott also endorsed Gowdy, though the senator won’t have a vote in the secret ballot elections coming up in the days ahead.  

There’s not a good definition so far, however, about what “draft” actually means — that is, how much support Gowdy would need to have to feel he had the necessary mandate to serve, albeit “reluctantly.”  

There’s also the practical matter of, the longer Gowdy waits to get in the race, the harder a time he might have prying votes away from lawmakers who have pledged to support the two announced contenders: Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Budget Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga.  

But Chaffetz brushed aside questions about about timing, strategy and whether Gowdy could win an unconventional race for leader. Chaffetz ran his own savvy race to be Oversight and Government Reform chairman just last year.  

“Look, Trey Gowdy’s got a little different style to him, he’s not gonna beat the bushes and overtly convince people to vote for him,” Chaffetz said. “If he doesn’t get it? There’s gonna be no tears shed by him if he doesn’t get it.”  

Asked when Gowdy would have to declare his candidacy, Chaffetz shot back, “Well, has the vote been announced yet, the time and date? Yeah, probably then.”  

Chaffetz said Gowdy shouldn’t worry about having to prove himself to win votes at the last minute: “There’s a website about his hair for goodness sake! Republicans are big fans of Trey Gowdy.”  

Gowdy, for his part, has stayed quiet about his own plans so far.

Ryan McCrimmon contributed to this report.

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