You can count the Republican majority in the new House of Representatives on the fingers of one hand – and therein lies Kevin McCarthy’s big problem.
This thin grip on power gives a small number of his own members a huge grip on everything, including his long-held wish to be an orator.
And for this small group that opposes him – many of whom are members of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus – McCarthy, despite his courtship of Donald Trump, represents everything that is wrong with the mainstream Republican party.
It has been more than 100 years since a vote for a speaker has resulted in more than one ballot on the floor.
And if McCarthy doesn’t get a majority of those voting on the first or second ballot, there would be enormous pressure on him to give up, too damaged to continue.
That could open the door to new Majority Leader Steve Scalise, though some moderate Republicans will be wary of being pushed around by a handful of malcontents on the right.
That could see other names emerge such as right-wing favorite Jim Jordan of Ohio – but he’s someone who would struggle to garner majority support.
An intriguing, albeit remote, possibility is that the House decides to choose a speaker who is not a member. The constitution is silent on whether the president must be a member of the House.
It will be a complicated day and a less than ideal start for the new Congress of Republicans – whatever happens.