In breaking news, just prior to a scheduled House GOP conference vote on the party’s nominee for the speakership that most of us figured was just a preliminary skirmish before the real bargaining with disgruntled conservatives began, Rep. Kevin McCarthy took himself out of the running, reportedly saying he was “not the one to unify the party.” The vote was subsequently and indefinitely postponed.

I guess we’ll know soon enough what caused this startling development. Could be McCarthy couldn’t see his way to a majority of the House on October 29 and decided to give somebody else a chance. Maybe something hideous from his own background was about to slither into view. Or maybe it’s all just punishment for his idiotic and repeated boasts about the political motivation behind the Benghazi! Committee. But you don’t figure a guy like McCarthy–whose photo is in the dictionary next to the entry for “ambition”–is going to stop short of the Ultimate Prize for House members unless some combination of factors handed him an anvil as he was about to step off a cliff. Any way you slice it, a House GOP that’s actually pretty united on ideology, policy and goals sure is having some trouble with strategy, tactics and leadership.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.