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Rep. Lynn Westmoreland said Friday he would run for speaker if Rep. Paul Ryan opted against a run

Westmoreland adds to a growing group of Republicans who might run for speaker

Washington CNN —  

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland said Friday he would enter the race for speaker if Rep. Paul Ryan decides not to run, offering more evidence that the House leadership battle could easily turn into a free-for-all.

Westmoreland, R-Georgia, is the latest Republican to announce he would join the race if Ryan opts out. Rep. Bill Flores, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told members this week that he would jump in if Ryan is out.

“I think I’m capable. I had a similar task in Georgia – as divided as our little conference was there, to come in and put it back together. To me this was a bit larger deal but I think we need a little common sense up here. I think that goes a long way,” Westmoreland told CNN on Friday. “I think I feel capable of doing it.”

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, also signaled strongly to CNN on Friday that he would run for speaker with Ryan out of the game, but did not commit to it.

“We are going to work hard along with our colleagues to figure out who the right person that we can afford is. I do want to make sure that the person who is the right speaker is committed to advancing what America needs – and to me, that’s a conservative Renaissance where the House of Representatives does what the American people demanded of it,” Pompeo told CNN. “If it turns out I’m the right person to do it, I’d be honored to.”

Opinion: Why Ryan should, shouldn’t run for House speaker

Upwards of a dozen possible candidates could get in the race if Ryan doesn’t run, leaving the possibility that the battle could go on for weeks with no clear front-runner to get the 218 votes needed on the floor to become speaker

House Republicans return from a weeklong recess next week and are planning to meet in private Wednesday. They left last week with all eyes focused on Ryan and a clear warning from departing House Speaker John Boehner that he is still planning to leave at the end of the month. However, Boehner also said he will stay on until a new speaker is elected.

Ryan has won praise across the Republican conference’s ideological divide as someone who could lead them with credibility few others have – but he has given no indication what his decision is. The dynamic has left many Republicans floating their names as possible contenders for speaker, with the important caveat that they run only if Ryan doesn’t.

Paul Ryan stays quiet – strategically

Only two Republicans – Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Florida, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, have announced campaigns for speaker regardless of Ryan’s choice. Both men announced challenges to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, before the House majority leader backed out last week. Webster has worked the phones hard over recess, but it’s unclear if he would drop out if Ryan jumps in.

Ryan has spent the week back in Janesville, Wisconsin, mulling over a bid with his family, but offering little evidence of his decision. Colleagues who spoke with him said he was wary of the idea, but considering it nonetheless.

Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wisconsin, recalled talking with Ryan about it on a flight from Chicago, “He’s not real excited about it.”