Kevin McCarthy’s Bad Night

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), addresses a crowd during an election night watch party. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images.)

By early Wednesday morning, it remained unclear whether Republicans would retake the House. Yet one thing quickly became clear on Election Night: GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s path to becoming speaker will be a lot rockier than expected.

It could be days, or even weeks, before we’ll know the exact breakdown of seats. Yet the results on Election Night were undoubtedly disappointing for Republicans. Vulnerable Democrats like Rep. Abigail Spanberger won reelection as other expected GOP wins failed to materialize across the country. 

McCarthy’s first challenge will be marshaling enough votes to get the speaker’s gavel. He needs buy-in from a House majority of 218 members, unless some lawmakers who would otherwise vote for someone else throw him a lifeline by choosing to vote “present,” a procedural work-around.

“A GOP House with only 228 or so seats seems like a nightmare for McCarthy, somewhere between unmanageable and ungovernable,” wrote Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. “Even the Speakership vote sounds like a headache.”

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