House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters as he arrives for a meeting with House Republicans at the Capitol on Tuesday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

It was the first time in 95 years that the U.S. House of Representatives failed to choose a new speaker.

The story of Kevin McCarthy's life was how he was denied the gavel on Tuesday's second ballot.

McCarthy was on the verge of becoming speaker in 2015, but conservatives blocked him after he appeared on Fox News and admitted that the House probe into the attack in Libya had a political motivation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies in January 2013 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

He said that everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unstoppable. We formed a select committee and a special committee. Today, what are her numbers? Her numbers are going down.

McCarthy decided to withdraw from the speaker's race a few days later. A new face is needed if we are going to be strong. I am not that person.

The quality that propelled the Californian to this point, keeping tabs on what his members want and bending over backwards to give it to them, has been put to its biggest test yet.

McCarthy found that his trademark malleability had reached its limits.

McCarthy has spent his entire professional life in politics, with the exception of a brief stint in his early 20s when he opened a sandwich counter in his uncle's frozen yogurt shop. After graduating from college, he offered to work for free for the congressman.

Kevin McCarthy, left
Then-California State Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in 2004. (Steve Yeater/AP)

After chairing both the California and national Young Republicans, McCarthy won a seat in the state Assembly in 2002, then succeeded the retiring Thomas in the U.S. House.

McCarthy has not devoted himself to ideological purity or policy manifestos. He is a traditional pro- business conservative.

McCarthy has been trying to get into the GOP. He was the majority leader by the end of the year. He was the least experienced congressman to hold the position in over a century when he ran for speaker.

The speed and single-mindedness of McCarthy's ascent is key to understanding how he has confronted the challenge to his bid for speaker.

There are only 222 Republicans in the House after a disappointing performance in the mid-term elections. McCarthy can only survive a small number of Republicans who vote another way. He didn't have the votes on the first ballot.

Members of the House of Representatives participate in the vote for speaker on the first day of the 118th Congress, Jan. 3. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

McCarthy released a list of concessions he has already made to his GOP critics, including lowering the threshold so that just five rank-and-file members of the House majority could vote for him.

It is hard to see how his push for speaker survives the week unless he gives even more.

McCarthy got to where he is today because of what one observer has called his " incredible emotional IQ." A leader who remembers the names of their spouses, children and grandchildren, as well as how many percentage points they won their last election, is one of the things he is obsessed with.

One Republican told New York magazine that there was a carrot and a stick approach. The carrot approach has been used by Kevin.

Then-President Donald Trump with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy after a meeting with the House Republican Conference, June 19, 2018. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

McCarthy's relationship with Donald Trump is the most clear example of this dynamic. The Californian has indicated at times that he is not a fan of Trump's brand of Republican politics. McCarthy told his fellow GOP leaders that he thought Putin would pay him. The remark was dismissed as a failed attempt at humor byMcCarthy's spokesman.

McCarthy told a small group of Republican lawmakers that he had had it with Trump. He did something that is not acceptable. Nobody is allowed to defend that.

McCarthy has prostrated himself before the former president many times.

During the 2016 campaign, he initiated late-night phone calls with the candidate to offer advice and keep him up to date on congress. Trump called him "my Kevin" and considered appointing him White House chief of staff. McCarthy ordered a staffer to remove all the red and pink candy from the pile so he could give Trump a jar of his favorites.

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

He rushed to Mar-a-Lago, walked back his condemnations, fought the creation of a bipartisan inquiry, and eventually led the effort to purge his deputy.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal at the time that McCarthy and other Republicans who criticized him initially relented. They supported me even though they were wrong.

It isn't a single figure McCarthy has to appease; it's nearly 20 rank-and-file Republicans with various motives and incentives.

Gaetz said that if you wanted to drain the swamp you couldn't put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise. I am a Florida man and I know what I'm talking about.

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaking to colleagues in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Gaetz criticized McCarthy on Tuesday. Gaetz nominated Jim Jordan of Ohio, a founding member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus and a McCarthy ally, as an alternative to the current congressman.

Jordan had urged his colleagues to back McCarthy instead of voting against him on the second ballot.

Jordan said that they needed to come together.