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House Speaker spotlight might swivel to Minnesota's John Kline

John Kline. REUTERS

ST. PAUL – The spotlight shone on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin Friday as House Republicans struggled to find a new leader, but the Washington media was ready to swivel that light toward U.S. Rep. John Kline of Minnesota.

Pressure mounted through the day to convince Ryan to run for speaker, after John Boehner announced he was leaving the speaker's chair and the favorite to replace him, Kevin McCarthy, suddenly opted out of the race Thursday.

Attention immediately turned to Ways and Means Chairman Ryan. His spokesman continually said he was not interested in being speaker, but people who talked to the former vice presidential candidate said Friday afternoon that Ryan was rethinking that decision.

Many national pundits were saying if Ryan could not be convinced to run, Kline may be in line to be a temporary speaker through the end of 2016. He announced last month that he would not run again for the Congress again, an office he has held since 2003.

Kline, who holds a House leadership position, was not talking about himself in public.

"I think we need to find someone else who will unify our conference and protect the institution," Kline told reporters. "I hope that person is Paul Ryan."

Politico, which covers politics in Washington, reported that Kline "repeatedly ducked questions about whether he would serve as a caretaker speaker."

The news organization also reported that Kline's status as a lame duck "would give him more room to maneuver among his fractious colleagues."

The country's largest newspaper, USA Today, listed Kline No. 3 on its list of potential speaker candidates.

The Atlantic, Washington Times, the Hill and others reported that Kline is a leading contender if Republicans decide on a caretaker speaker.

Kline is close to Boehner and is well-liked by his colleagues. He is a former military man.

"It only makes sense to have a man of John Kline's integrity as speaker," tweeted Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.

While Washington observers talked about Kline as a temporary speaker, a well-known Republican was preparing to get into the race to replace the congressman.

Former radio talk show host Jason Lewis filed Federal Election Commission paperwork indicating that he is a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District race. He listed his home as Woodbury, just outside of the district, and his campaign headquarters as Cottage Grove, just inside the district. A person does not need to live in the district he or she serves in Congress.

It appears Lewis will make his official announcement next week as the fourth GOP candidate running to replace Kline.

On his radio show's website Friday, he said the announcement would come "very soon" and told an interviewer that his theme will be "helping this country and helping the economy."

Lewis bills himself as "America's Mr. Right." He is a Waterloo, Iowa, native and received big ratings with his Twin Cities talk show before he took it national in 2009. He left the show a year ago.

Also running for Republicans are former state Rep. Pam Myhra, David Gerson and former state Sen. John Howe. Others reportedly also are considering getting into the race.

Angie Craig and Mary Lawrence are the two Democrats running in the district.

The 2nd takes in some southern Twin Cities suburbs and mostly rural areas to the south.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.