Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is being treated as if he were Obi Wan Kenobi of “Star Wars” – House establishment Republicans’ only hope.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s abrupt exit from the race for speaker of the House Thursday exposed a thin Republican-leadership bullpen. The Californian literally backed out as Republicans met to vote for Speaker John Boehner’s replacement.

“I’m not the one,” McCarthy said, leaving his colleagues in disbelief.

The few establishment Republicans who are seen as viable candidates seemingly have no interest in the job.

A candidate first must secure 125 votes during a secret ballot and then 218 votes from the full House at an undecided date. The original Oct. 29 election date has now been postponed.

“Paul Ryan is the only eligible candidate,” Rep. Devin Nunes of California told The Hill on Thursday.

“He’s just the first obvious name, and it would be terrific,” Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole added.

“Boehner has told Ryan that he is the only person who can unite GOP at this crisis moment,” Robert Costa of the Washington Post tweeted.

South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy has squashed murmurs he should run by also endorsing Ryan.

There is just one problem: Ryan said he does not want the job.

“While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate,” said Ryan, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

Can the Republican Party save itself? Richard Viguerie has the prescription in “Takeover.”

Other names floated to replace Boehner include: Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, Reps. Lynn Westmoreland and Tom Price of Georgia, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

Chaffetz, who said he was “stunned” after McCarthy’s decision, entered the race last week.

“I do believe it is time for a fresh start. That was the whole genesis for my campaign, but we need to have a lot more family discussion,” Chaffetz told CNN on Thursday. “I think we have a lot of internal fracturing that’s happening. And we need to figure out a way to unite the party.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

House Republicans are in such disarray that former Speaker Newt Gingrich decided to release a trial balloon.

“If you were to say to me 218 have called you up and given you their pledge, obviously no citizen could ever turn down that kind of challenge. This is why George Washington came out of retirement – because there are moments you can’t avoid,” Gingrich said on Sean Hannity’s radio show Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported.

What do YOU think? Who should succeed John Boehner as speaker? Sound off in today’s WND poll

McCarthy’s hasty exit came shortly after a letter written by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., urged candidates to drop out if they had any embarrassing skeletons in the closet.

A Wikipedia entry for McCarthy was also edited on Thursday alleging an affair with North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers. The IP address for the editor, 216.81.81.85, appears to have originated from the Department of Homeland Security.

“DHS has immediately launched an investigation into this serious matter,” Marsha Catron, a spokeswoman for DHS, told the Daily Caller Thursday. “If it is discovered that a DHS employee, using government property, is responsible for these alleged actions, immediate and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

Related stories:

McCarthy exit exposes GOP leadership’s weak bullpen

Obama administration linked to House scandal writeup?

BIG LIST: Candidates to replace Boehner

Lawmaker letter warns against skeletons in GOP closets

Kevin McCarthy drops out of speaker race

Freedom Caucus rebukes Kevin McCarthy

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