Twists and turns……

House GOP leadership races took new twists and turns on Monday, just days before rank-and-file Republicans head behind closed doors to pick the next Speaker.

Outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) postponed elections for majority leader and whip at the behest of conservatives who argued that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) might lose the Speaker’s race and end up keeping his current job.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) held court with reporters for nearly an hour, capping a three-day media blitz to promote his underdog bid for Speaker.

McCarthy is still the favorite to succeed Boehner, but Chaffetz’s entry has shaken up the once-sleepy contest, raising the potential for a protracted and messy floor fight for the House’s top job.

Speaking to reporters, Chaffetz conceded that the affable McCarthy, his “close friend and ally,” has more than enough GOP votes to be nominated for Speaker during closed-door balloting on Thursday.

But Chaffetz said the powerful California Republican is short of the 218 votes he needs in a formal floor vote. In part, that’s because many House Republicans see a vote for McCarthy, the current No. 2 leader, as a vote for Boehner. And that is a position they don’t want to have to defend back home, Chaffetz argued.

If McCarthy can’t close the deal, Chaffetz said, he’ll be waiting in the wings, pitching himself as a candidate who can bridge the divide between centrists who back McCarthy and conservatives who are distrustful of him.

McCarthy’s “math problem is on the floor. Clearly, members are recognizing that their constituents don’t want to perpetuate the status quo, that simply giving existing leadership a promotion is not going to work well,” Chaffetz told reporters.

“Nobody has disagreed that the current majority leader is short of 218. It’s just the reality,” the Oversight Committee chairman said.