By Molly K. Hooper - 01/25/14 12:08 PM EST
Paul RyanPaul RyanPuerto Rico defaults on 2M debt payments The beginning of the end for Ted Cruz Obama mocks GOP, media and himself in final WHCA dinner address MORE (R-Wis.) has cleared the way for Eric CantorEric CantorRepublicans who vow to never back Trump NRCC upgrades 11 'Young Guns' candidates Cruz, Kasich join forces to stop Trump MORE (R-Va.) to succeed John BoehnerJohn BoehnerCruz confronts Trump supporter Graham: 'Lucifer may be the only person Trump can beat in a general election' Obama mocks GOP, media and himself in final WHCA dinner address MORE as the next Speaker.
Ryan this week said he's not interested in becoming Speaker, preferring to head the influential Ways and Means Committee in 2015. Boehner has repeatedly said he's not retiring at the end of this Congress, but that hasn't tamped down speculation that the Ohio Republican is considering retirement.
The wonky Budget Committee chairman, however, said Thursday that he does not want to be Speaker. Ryan is expected to lead the Ways and Means next year, with few expecting the 2012 vice presidential nominee to launch a White House bid.
Cantor has a better shot at the top House spot for a number of reasons, according to political science professor Jack Pitney.
They include: "Having been a member of the leadership for several years now, establishing national name identification, being able to raise money, showing that he can excel at both the inside game and the outside game, according to Pitney, who teaches at Claremont McKenna College.
Cantor has already raised more than $5 million for the 2013-2014 cycle, and has more than $2 million cash on hand between his personal campaign fund and his leadership PAC called Every Republican is Crucial (ERIC), according to the federal election money tracking website Opensecrets.org.
Cantor has had a seat at the GOP leadership table since then-House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) selected him to be chief deputy whip in 2002. That has helped him foster relationships with many in the GOP conference.
A source close to Cantor said the Richmond-area lawmaker is a “patient man,” and has built a strong team that could take the reins if and when the job of Speaker is open.
In addition, Cantor is a Jewish GOP lawmaker — a rarity in the party. As the No. 1-ranking Republican, he could serve as a symbol of inclusion.
“For a party struggling with diversity to have the first Republican Jewish Speaker would be a tremendous step forward, signal to minorities — religious minorities — that the Republican Party is not only welcoming, but willing to promote anyone with talent regardless of their religion, or race or gender,” a GOP leadership aide told The Hill.
That possibility may be a long way off, however, the source added, noting that Boehner is not showing any signs of slowing down in a job that requires a lot of energy and time away from home.
Ryan last week cited the time it takes to be Speaker for not wanting to seek the position. With three young children back home in Janesville, Wis., Ryan said he relishes the time he spends with his family.
A Ryan vs. Cantor showdown for Speaker would have been awkward because they have long been political allies.
Should Boehner retire, it's quite likely that Cantor would be challenged in his bid for the Speakership. But with Ryan out of the way, Cantor would be the favorite — assuming Republicans don't lose control of the House.
Other Republicans who have been mentioned as a potential Boehner successors include Reps. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Tom Price (Ga.) and Tom Cole (Okla.).
Cantor's office declined to comment for this article.