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Washington • Mitt Romney reportedly made a personal plea to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to run for House speaker to help calm the chaos created when the likely new House leader, Kevin McCarthy, unexpectedly withdrew from the race this week.
Romney urged Ryan, his 2012 vice-presidential candidate, to take the job, CNN reported, and Ryan talked with several colleagues on the House floor about a possible bid.
Romney didn't confirm that he was urging Paul to run but praised him in a statement released Friday.
"I wouldn't presume to tell Paul what to do, but I do know that he is a man of ideas who is driven to see them applied for the public good," Romney said. "Every politician tries to convince people that they are that kind of leader; almost none are Paul is. Paul has a driving passion to get America back on a path of growth and opportunity. With Paul, it's not just words, it's in his heart and soul."
Meanwhile, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he will withdraw from the speaker's race if Ryan reverses course and agrees to run for the top job.
"I would not run against Paul Ryan," Chaffetz told reporters early Friday. "If Paul Ryan runs, he's clearly someone I would support. I would love it if he did it."
Ryan had rejected the idea of a speaker bid several times Thursday after McCarthy said he would remain as majority leader.
But on Friday, Ryan spent some time chatting with a group of fellow Republicans, including Utah Rep. Chris Stewart, and weighing the idea of a bid.
Stewart says he's still unsure whether Ryan will jump in.
"I think Paul has talked to a number of people," the two-term Republican said. "I don't think any of us know what his decision will be, and we should wait and see what he decides."
CNN quoted House Energy Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., saying that Romney phoned Ryan to urge him to seek the House's top job.
"He needs to do this for the team," Upton said of Ryan, according to CNN.
If Ryan, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, joins the race, he'd likely be the clear favorite in what could become a crowded field. Several members are considering runs if the leadership void persists, including Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.
Chaffetz, meanwhile, says he's not afraid of new competition to replace Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who had said he would resign Oct. 30 but is now saying he'll remain until his successor is picked.
"I've always argued we should have more candidates in this race," Chaffetz said.
Issa on Friday had sharp words on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" about Chaffetz's bid.
While Issa was a one-time mentor of Chaffetz, and helped him secure a subcommittee chairmanship early in Chaffetz's tenure, the two had a falling out when Chaffetz ran to succeed Issa as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Chaffetz later removed portraits of former chairmen, including Issa's, from the committee hearing room.
"Jason's a good man. An honorable man," Issa said. "But he got his job by going to Boehner and saying he would shut down that rancor that was going on. That he would 'go along, get along.' And he's done that. He put shining pictures of Utah on the wall, and he basically stopped doing it. … The fact is, he's a good guy, but whatever he was as a freshman, when he was a fighter on our committee, when he was trying to hold government accountable, he took a break from that. And I think that's going to hurt him."
Chaffetz didn't respond directly to Issa's comments.
"Like I said, I welcome all the challengers," Chaffetz said.