Within the Republican party, some members already perceive McCarthy as a supporter of former President Trump, but he has thus far declined to endorse the former president outright.
As Politico reports, Representative Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), a dedicated Trump advocate, suggests that the speaker is subtly smoothing the way for his party members to unite behind Trump by the end of the primaries.
Meuser encapsulated McCarthy's 2024 message to the House Republicans:
Hey, you're currently with DeSantis. That's alright. We understand. You're with Mike Pence, Tim Scott. But ultimately, we need to rally around our winning candidate.
On the other hand, a conservative House member, speaking anonymously, suggested that a Trump endorsement could potentially exacerbate the existing divisions within McCarthy's "incredibly split" conference.
"The reality is, if we get Trump, there’s probably a good possibility that we don’t keep the House,” said the conservative, who has yet to endorse any candidate in the primary. "McCarthy knows that. He knows that if Trump’s on top of the ticket, that we probably lose New York and California. ... If we lose the House, there’s no way McCarthy stays as minority leader. He’s gone."
This puts McCarthy in a precarious position during the party's drawn-out primary battle. He manages one of the most marginal majorities in recent House history, with a handful of dissatisfied members capable of instigating a vote to remove him at any moment. Concurrently, McCarthy is grappling with a challenging map to retain the House in 2024 — a task that will only get tougher if Trump, indicted twice, emerges as the nominee.
The one sentiment all McCarthy's members might align with is that McCarthy and Trump's fortunes will become increasingly entwined as the presidential race intensifies. This could explain why, although some of Trump's allies may want McCarthy to engage in the presidential campaign, this sentiment is not universally shared within the GOP conference.
Several Republican lawmakers cautioned that an early endorsement by McCarthy could trigger disunity and discord among various GOP factions, potentially undermining their wider agenda.
"There’s not a person who is more black and white, who is more hot and cold, who is more politically divisive than Trump," noted a moderate Republican who represents a district carried by President Biden in 2020.
"So, while McCarthy spent six months keeping us all together, it’s like the worst thing that you can do is take a stance for or against Trump."