In a middle finger to all those who would say that his career is in jeopardy, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a messianic figure among the hard right in the House GOP, announced Thursday that he will run for speaker of the House, should Republicans maintain the majority this fall. Speaking anecdotally from my perspective, this has led to an unusually high number of inquiries about whether Jordan could win.
Almost certainly not. It’s not as if Jordan—an aggressive tactician who frequently puts moderates and the rank-and-file in difficult spots—has broad support within his own party. He’s long had a low ceiling of support, and the allegations that he covered up sexual abuse during his time as an Ohio State wrestling coach would only reinforce that. Any Republican majority in the next Congress would be slim, likely with only a few votes as a buffer. It takes 218 floor votes to elect a speaker, and already members are beginning to say they would never support Jordan.
But those who like Jim Jordan like Jim Jordan. He was the founding chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and although North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows has assumed the chairmanship this Congress, Jordan is still its spiritual father.
As I wrote in April, when Jordan began floating a speakership bid, this is about putting a face to the Freedom Caucus’ leverage in the upcoming leadership elections. The Freedom Caucus has more than enough votes to prevent the other candidates, namely Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, from getting to 218.
Jordan’s entry into the race is the Freedom Caucus’ starting point for negotiations. McCarthy could probably lock up the Freedom Caucus’ support quickly if he cut a deal allowing Jordan to be majority leader, but the rest of the caucus would never go for it. He could offer Jordan, or another Freedom Caucus member, another seat at the leadership table, or a committee chairmanship. Procedural reforms, like opening up the floor process on legislation or reforming committee selection, could work, but promises are easily broken. Jim Jordan won’t be the next speaker, but he will have to be dealt with.
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