The race to succeed Paul Ryan as the leader of the House Republican conference is on, and the two most likely candidates are already loading up their campaign finance arsenals for what could turn into a slugfest for the job.
A key to following Ryan is matching his fundraising prowess, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has a hefty advantage over his potential rival, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., after the first quarter of this year.
Scalise has repeatedly said he will not run against McCarthy for the job. Yet lawmakers tell CNBC on the condition of anonymity that Scalise's name continues to be floated as an underdog for the post, provided he shows that he can raise enough money – and not just for his own campaign but for the party as a whole.
McCarthy's campaign raised $8.75 million during the first three months of 2018, according to financial disclosure information a campaign aide provided to CNBC. He has also transferred $2.9 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is dedicated to helping GOP candidates get elected to the House.
Scalise, on the other hand, announced a fundraising haul of $3 million during the quarter. His campaign transferred $1 million to the NRCC and donated $650,000 to other GOP candidates.
Each candidate is running for re-election in their respective districts, and they have the backing of influential executives.