Republican Candidates Risk Falling Into a House Divide

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 12.16.32 PMMAGGIE HABERMAN

Friday, October 9, 2015

Good Friday morning. Representative Kevin McCarthy of Californias announcement that he would drop out of the race to succeed John A. Boehner as speaker threw the House into tumult and infighting in which, one member said, We look absolutely crazy.” But as Congress tries to make sense from the mess, the Republican candidates must also determine whether they should embrace or distance themselves from the turmoil.

Mr. McCarthy’s sudden departure has left the presidential campaigns pondering the latest chaos and its implications.

Mr. Boehner is hoping to push Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the House budget chairman and a respected figure in the Republican establishment who has said he would not run, to replace him. Should Mr. Boehner succeed, it could help bring a sense of stability to a deeply uncertain situation, though it’s unclear if Mr. Ryan would have more success quelling concerns of conservatives than Mr. McCarthy did.

But the speaker job, once a coveted leadership post, is one that few people seem to want at an unruly moment in Congress.

A week ago, Mr. McCarthy suggested the work of the special committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, had helped bring down Hillary Rodham Clinton’s poll numbers. Democrats seized on the remarks, which deeply troubled Republicans. And Mr. McCarthy was seen as insufficiently conservative by the Freedom Caucus.

For the time being, the situation will help freeze the news coverage of the Republican presidential race for a few days, and being seen as too connected to Washington is unhelpful to the candidates at such an antiestablishment moment, even for governors who were once seen as the saviors of their party for 2016.

Most of the outsider candidates, such as Donald J. Trump, spoke approvingly of Mr. McCarthy’s departure from the race.

Jeb Bush, despite never serving in Washington, has been tagged by virtue of his family and his deep donor support as inextricably linked to the establishment. The candidate he is most closely eyeing right now, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, has been laying low for much of the summer of Trump. He is trying to stay above Mr. Trump’s increasing criticisms, and he has been gaining a sense of momentum.

But Mr. Rubio, who won the 2010 primary in his state as a Tea Party candidate, has been in Washington for almost five years. Navigating the current dysfunction could be a challenge.