WASHINGTON (AP) — Some say it's a fight between West and South. Or a battle for President Donald Trump's affections. Or a test of who can woo conservatives.

But one thing is clear: If the showdown between California Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise for House speaker is a popularity contest, it will be tight.

House Speaker Paul Ryan told colleagues Wednesday he wouldn't seek re-election in November, implicitly starting the race to replace him. Disconcertingly for the GOP, Trump's unpopularity and early Democratic momentum leave it unclear whether Ryan's replacement will be speaker or minority leader.

For now, McCarthy and Scalise are seen as the chief contenders.

McCarthy, 53, an affable California who has developed a rapport with Trump, is from a Central Valley district. He was elected in 2006 and rocketed into a leadership job in 2009, thanks to his campaigning for fellow Republicans. He replaced Eric Cantor as majority leader in 2014 after the Virginian unexpectedly lost a primary for his House seat and quit.

In 2015, McCarthy sought to succeed Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who'd alienated conservatives who considered him insufficiently doctrinaire. McCarthy abruptly left that contest days later after failing to line up enough votes, and Ryan accepted the post.

Scalise, 52, the House GOP vote counter first elected a decade ago, had little national name recognition when tragedy thrust him into headlines. He was shot at a congressional baseball practice last year and has slowly come back from his injuries.

The former state legislator and Louisiana conservative has earned the respect of his fellow lawmakers.

Lawmakers and GOP donors want a leader who can raise money, and there McCarthy has an advantage. His leadership political committee has reported contributing more than triple that of Scalise's total to GOP candidates since January 2017.

Neither man is known for rhetorical flourishes. And both have resume problems that fellow Republicans insisted they'd overcome.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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