Washington (CIRCA) -- It didn't take long for the Washington rumor mills to start buzzing about who will take over as Speaker of the House after Rep. Paul Ryan announced on Wednesday that he would be leaving office come January.
Ryan's current number two, Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA,) and majority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) are both potential heirs; but if the Democrats retake the House in the upcoming election, Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD,) could take the gavel.
"I did not seek this job. I took it reluctantly," said Ryan in a press conference. "But I have given this job everything that I have, and I have no regrets whatsoever for accepting this responsibility."
Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man, and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you Paul!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
While they may not admit it, Ryan's potential successors do not appear as reluctant as he was to take over for former Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-MI) in 2016.
McCarthy made a bid to take over in 2015, but dropped out in October of that year, reportedly because he did not think he could get the necessary votes. He was viewed as a moderate, establishment Republican at a time when more conservative elements like the Freedom Caucus were gaining influence.
But McCarthy's newfound relationship with President Donald Trump, which was apparently aided by his ability to pick out the president's favorite candies, could help him secure the Speakership come January.
However, McCarthy isn't the only congressman who has caught Trump's eye.
Scalise was given a hero's welcome by Trump, during the most recent State of the Union address, after the Republican whip survived a shooting in 2017. Trump's recognition catapulted Scalise's public profile combine that with his general popularity among his colleagues, and Scalise could be a prime contender for the job-- should he want it.
Of course, neither McCarthy nor Scalise have officially entered the race to replace Ryan. Both told The Hill that they will be focused on working with the current speaker to push forward legislation until the new Congress takes office in January.
Should Pelosi and company have their way though, that new Congress will feature a Democratic majority in the House. There are more than a few contentious races coming up in the 2018 midterm election, giving the Democrats a chance to break the Republican majority across government. If they succeed, it would likely be Pelosi retaking the Speakership in January, a role she previously held from 2007 to 2011. But Pelosi has become something of a polarizing political figure as of late, and there are some in her party who are ready for a fresh face. Hoyer has been heir apparent to Pelosi for years, but at 78 years old, he may be seen as part of the old school.
Enter Joseph Crowley, a 10-term New Yorker who has been working to put himself in the conversation for speaker by raising money for the party. At 56 years old, he's young (by Congressional standards), which could play in his favor.
House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) is also in the conversation. He's the highest ranking African American in Congress, and as a southerner, could help the party challenge regions that voted for Trump. That said, Clyburn has been in office for more than two decades and is also in his late 70s, so he may not be the ideal choice to take the party reins.
There could be quite a few names added to the list in the future, but one thing is clear: whichever party controls the House after the midterm will have the final say on who becomes speaker when the House has its roll call vote come January.