WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is promising conservative GOP lawmakers "I'm not John Boehner" as he seeks their support to replace Boehner as speaker.
McCarthy and his two Republican rivals for the speaker's job took turns meeting behind closed doors Tuesday night with a coalition of four groups comprising the most conservative members in the House. These are the lawmakers who forced Boehner to resign and now they're maneuvering to deny his No. 2, McCarthy, the chance to ascend unless he agrees to various demands.
Lawmakers present said McCarthy pledged changes to the House.
"I think McCarthy's pitch was 'I'm not John Boehner, I'm going to run things differently, I'm my own man,' " said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. "And I think that's a case that he does have to make. One of the things I hear all the time from my constituents back in Texas is we don't want John Boehner 2.0."
The other two lawmakers running for the job - Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of Florida - also addressed the group. Chaffetz said afterward, "I would just fundamentally change the way we do business around here, so it was fun."
McCarthy appears to have the support of most House Republicans and is likely to emerge as their nominee for speaker in secret-ballot elections set for Thursday.
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House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy
McCarthy tells GOP conservatives 'I'm not John Boehner'
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 30: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the House chamber following a vote on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
US House of Representatives' majority leader Kevin Owen McCarthy speaks during a meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on August 13, 2015. McCarthy is leading 36 US Republican congressmen on a trip to the region to meet IsraelI and Palestinian officials as well as academics and journalists. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, listens during a news conference after a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., Tuesday, July 28, 2015. The U.S. House plans to vote on a three-month highway funding bill Wednesday and leave for a summer break without considering a longer-term measure now before the Senate, Speaker John Boehner said. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JUNE 24: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, left, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., participate in the House GOP leadership media availability following the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday, June 24, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 2: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrives to speak to the media following the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) ? Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday March 1, 2015. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, speaks during an event to urge US President Barack Obama to sign the Keystone XL legislation on February 11, 2015 in the Rayburn Room of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Congress was set Wednesday to green-light the Keystone XL pipeline transporting Canadian oil to US refineries, but President Barack Obama is pledging to veto the measure. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (3rd L), House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (2nd L), and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) listen during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama met with congressional leaders to discuss issues including the economy and the nationals security. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 06: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., takes a picture before the 114th Congress was sworn in on the House floor of the Capitol, January 6, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., participates in the press conference announcing House GOP leadership for upcoming session of Congress on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 9: House Majority Leader elect Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., with House Majority Whip elect Steve Scalise, R-La., looking on, speaks during the House GOP leadership media availability after the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
New Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy arrives to speak during the Faith and Freedom Coalitions Road to Majority Conference on June 20, 2014 in Washington,DC. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20: House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' Policy Conference at the Omni Shoreham hotel June 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. In the wake of Majority Leader Eric Cantor's decision to resign, McCarthy was elected majority leader by the House Republican conference Thursday. Led by the Christian political activist Ralph Reed, the coalition heard from conservative politicians who are courting religious conservatives as they eye a run for the White House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: (L-R) Speaking to the media, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), the newly elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) after the secret ballot voting in the House leader and House Whip races at the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Thursday June 19, 2014. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters in his bid to be Leader of the House before the upcoming House leadership vote Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Tuesday June 17, 2014. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is trailed by reporters while walking through Statuary Hall the U.S. Capitol building, June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Yesterday House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his Virginia primary to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat, opening a slot for Majority Leader. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: U.S. Congress member Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) during Music Policy and the U.S. Congress: An Insider's Briefing, A GRAMMY Townhall at The Wilshire Ebell Theatre on January 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 16: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to reporters during the media availability immediately after the House Republican Conference meeting at Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) ? Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD,) left, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA,) right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 17, 2013. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
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But that does not guarantee he will prevail when the full House votes for a new speaker in open session on Oct. 29. That's when conservatives will have their leverage, because McCarthy can lose only 29 votes and still come out the winner.
McCarthy, who represents a California district, remains the favorite and has Boehner's support. But conservatives say they will not back him unless they're convinced he'll take the House in a new direction. They want more involvement in decision-making and a tough line on issues like increasing the federal debt ceiling and deleting funding for Planned Parenthood in must-pass spending legislation - even though that risks a government shutdown.
"What Kevin has against him is he's John Boehner's right-hand man," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., chairman of the Tea Party Caucus.
"He's going to have to reach out and work with conservatives like they've never done since I've been here," said Huelskamp, elected in 2010.
A number of Republicans are insisting that whoever emerges as the nominee Thursday should get the support of all GOP lawmakers in the floor vote at month's end, but there appears to be no mechanism for enforcing that.
"For the good of the country it's vitally important that the Republican caucus coalesce around the candidate that earns the nomination," said Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas. "It's a critical time for the country."
The uncertain outcome has caused great turmoil in the House, even as lawmakers face daunting tasks including raising the debt ceiling by early November to avoid a market-rupturing default.
McCarthy's candidacy was hurt by a gaffe last week where he boasted that the House's Benghazi investigations committee could take credit for Hillary Rodham Clinton's falling poll numbers. He retracted it, but Clinton is now using the moment in a campaign ad, and the fracas gave Chaffetz an opening to jump into the race.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said McCarthy apologized in the meeting for his Benghazi comments. "He said it wasn't a good choice of words."
Chaffetz chairs the high-profile House Oversight and Government Reform Committee while Webster, who unsuccessfully challenged Boehner in the past, already has a handful of endorsements from conservatives.
Massie said that all three candidates pledged they would protect the conservative lawmakers they addressed Tuesday from attacks by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce should it come after them in next year's elections. The Chamber of Commerce and other establishment-aligned groups have sometimes meddled in GOP primaries to elect business-friendly Republicans over tea party adherents.
REALTED: John Boehner during his time as House Speaker:
John Boehner during his time as speaker
McCarthy tells GOP conservatives 'I'm not John Boehner'
FILE - In this July 29,2015 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. According to GOP lawmakers, Boehner to step down end of October. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio becomes emotional as Pope Francis appears on the Speaker's Balcony on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 and waves to the waiting crowd. The pope addressed a joint meeting of Congress before stepping out on the balcony. Between the pope and Boehner is Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (R) speaks with Pope Francis (L) in the U.S. Capitol building before the Pontiff speaks to a joint meeting of Congress September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis will be the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress. The Pope is on a six-day trip to the U.S., with stops in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia. (Photo By Bill Clark-PoolGetty Images)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. An effort by a conservative Republican to strip Boehner of his position as the top House leader is largely symbolic, but is a sign of discontent among the more conservative wing of the House GOP. On Tuesday, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who was disciplined earlier this year by House leadership, filed a resolution to vacate the chair, an initial procedural step.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE - In this June 28, 2015 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, to talk about the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Having lost their latest war against President Barack Obamaâs health care overhaul, Republicans must decide how to wage battles that could fan the issue for the 2016 elections. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) arrives for his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. Boehner answered questions on the Republican budget, Hillary Clinton's emails, and other topics during the press conference. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, kisses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, in the Rose Garden of the White House before President Barack Obama's remarks to members of Congress, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 in Washington. Obama thanked those who supported H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 to improve the affordability and quality of health care for the youngest and oldest in the nation. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens during a news conference following a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Boehner said he's waiting for the Senate to act on legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department ahead of Friday's midnight deadline. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio responds to reporters about the impasse over passing the Homeland Security budget because of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House voted last month to end Homeland Security funding on Saturday unless Obama reverses his order to protect millions of immigrants from possible deportation. After Democratic filibusters blocked the bill in the Senate, the chamber's Republican leaders agreed this week to offer a "clean" funding measure, with no immigration strings attached. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio casts multiple shadows as he leaves the Rayburn Room on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, after presiding over ceremonial re-enactments of the House swearing-in ceremony. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, kisses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. after being re-elected to a third term during the opening session of the 114th Congress, as Republicans assume full control for the first time in eight years, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais )
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 31, 2014, for final votes as Congress rushes for the doors and a five-week summer recess. The institutional split of a Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate has added up to inaction, especially in a midterm election year with control of the Senate at stake. Lawmakers have struggled to compromise on a handful of bills to deal with the nation's pressing problems amid overwhelming partisanship. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio waits to speak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, following a Republican strategy session after returning from a five-week recess. Boehner said Islamic State militants are a serious threat that must be dealt with in Iraq, Syria or wherever they exist and insisted that no decision would be made on a congressional vote until President Barack Obama lays out his strategy to defeat the militants. Boehner and other congressional leaders are heading to the White House this afternoon for a meeting with Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio tickles John Griffin III, son of Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., outside his office, after a House vote, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner said Thursday he will give President Barack Obama a proposal temporarily extending the government's ability to borrow money and averting a potential default _ but only if he agrees to negotiate over ending a partial government shutdown and a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, joined by fellow Republicans, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, following a closed-door GOP meeting, to announce that House Republicans will advance legislation to temporarily extend the government's ability to borrow money to meet its financial obligations. From left are, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Boehner, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas. The federal government remains partially shut down for a 10th day and faces a first-ever default between Oct. 17 and the end of the month. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to a House Republican Conference meeting to discuss the ongoing budget fight, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republican unity showed unmistakable signs of fraying Monday as Democrats and the White House vowed to reject tea party-driven demands to delay the nation's health care overhaul as the price for averting a partial government shutdown at midnight. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, after a closed-door strategy session. Pressure is building on fractious Republicans over legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown, as the Democratic-led Senate is expected to strip a tea party-backed plan to defund the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare," from their bill. Boehner originally preferred a plan to deliver to President Obama a stopgap funding bill without the provision to eliminate the health care law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, leaves after a three hour photo session with members of the new 113th Congress that convened on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama gestures while giving his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listen at rear. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, are on the first green as they play golf at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, June 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Following a meeting with President Barack Obama today, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, accompanied by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks about the budget, Tuesday, April 5, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., walk out to speak to reporters after their meeting at the White House in Washington with President Obama regarding the budget and possible government shutdown, Wednesday, April 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
House Speaker-designate John Boehner of Ohio wipes away tears as he waits to receive the gavel from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. during the first session of the 112th Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio celebrates the GOP's victory that changes the balance of power in Congress and will likely elevate him to speaker of the House, during an election night gathering hosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.