House Republican Whip Steve Scalise has made it clear that he will not run against House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy if an election is called for speaker of the House.
Yet, that hasn't stopped Scalises' closest advisors from preparing him for the possibility that if McCarthy fails to capture the nomination, he could become the alternative candidate lawmakers could support.
In private conversations that have taken place since House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced he would be retiring at the end of the year, friends and allies of Scalise, who spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity, say they've been told that the House whip's team are formulating a plan for their boss to run for speaker if McCarthy's bid fails.
Here's why Scalise's team has hope. There is growing speculation on Capitol Hill that House Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, will jump into the speaker's race disrupting McCarthy's chances of pulling off a victory, those sources say. Jordan has been privately courting lawmakers and allies on the Hill about possibly running, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
In a statement provided to CNBC, a spokesman for Scalise did not deny that the Louisiana congressman would try his hand against an opponent other than McCarthy, or that the whip's staff had been preparing for the possibility of a failed McCarthy bid.
"Speaker Ryan has made it clear that he will serve his full term, and Whip Scalise has made it clear that when the time for leadership elections comes, he will support Leader McCarthy as our next speaker," Chris Bond, Scalise's spokesman, said in statement. "Clearly there will be plenty of rumors and palace intrigue in the meantime, but the fact is, this leadership team is focused on working together to bolster our Republican majority, not on some leadership election months down the road — because no one wants the Democrats to take the House and Nancy Pelosi to be our next speaker," he added.
Representatives for Jordan and McCarthy did not return requests for comment.