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House Democrats see Republican speaker ‘dysfunction’ as path to majority in 2024

From chaos comes electoral opportunity, some say

The speaker uncertainty set off by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz could be a boon for Democrats, some hope. Above, Gaetz is seen surrounded by reporters on Oct. 3.
The speaker uncertainty set off by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz could be a boon for Democrats, some hope. Above, Gaetz is seen surrounded by reporters on Oct. 3. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Jasmine Crockett has zero regrets.

Even as Republican infighting drags on into a third week and the House remains speaker-less — holding up aid for Ukraine and Israel, not to mention 12 government spending bills — and even as she opposes, on moral grounds, the House GOP’s top candidate to lead the party, the Texas Democrat isn’t even a little bit rueful about Democrats’ decision to help an insurgent group of conservatives oust Kevin McCarthy as House speaker.

In fact, there’s some shiny silver lining visible in the depths of Republican dysfunction, Crockett and other Democrats said.

“There is no campaign slogan, there is no messaging the Democrats could ever do, to better demonstrate who the modern day Republican Party is,” Crockett said.

“It’s not good for our country, and it’s not good for the world,” said New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, who chairs the New Democrat Coalition, of a potential Jim Jordan speakership. “But winning the majority in 2024 just got a whole hell-of-a-lot easier.”

The disarray may be disconcerting in the short term, and Democrats may worry about how the House will run under the leadership of someone they’ve deemed “unfit” to hold the speaker’s gavel, such as Jordan. But with an important election approaching next November and a razor-thin GOP House majority, some Democratic lawmakers and strategists are salivating over what they view as unforced Republican errors.

“There’s almost no doubt that this type of dysfunction and chaos among Republicans will benefit Democrats,” said Brad Woodhouse, a Democratic strategist. “And I think you combine that with the notion that Jim Jordan is a guy that founded the House Freedom Caucus and is one of the most conservative firebrands in the House. … Even if they solve this current chaos by making him the speaker, they will definitely have cut off their nose to spite their face.”

“By tying their political futures to an election-denying, anti-law enforcement, pro-shutdown far-right extremist, these so-called moderates are hand-delivering the DCCC content for campaign ads ahead of next year but, more importantly, they are doing a grave disservice to their country,” said Viet Shelton, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Some moderate Republicans, too, are fearful of the consequences of the recent Republican morass and a Jordan speakership.

“There will be tens of millions of campaign dollars making sure voters are aware of the GOP’s further lurch toward autocracy and lunacy,” Jeff Timmer, a senior adviser with the center-right Lincoln Project, said via email Monday. “Not only will this doom the 18 Rs in Biden districts, it’s going to imperil other marginal Rs … in ways they don’t yet comprehend.”

“Jim Jordan was involved in Trump’s conspiracy to steal the election and seize power; he urged that Pence refuse to count lawful electoral votes. If Rs nominate Jordan to be Speaker, they will be abandoning the Constitution. They’ll lose the House majority and they’ll deserve to,” former Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney wrote Friday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

McCarthy became the first House speaker removed by a floor vote on Oct. 3 after Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz brought a motion to vacate. Gaetz, seven other Republicans and 208 Democrats supported that motion, leaving the House adrift.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise won an internal vote last week to become the Republican speaker designee. But support for Scalise disintegrated before a floor vote could be called, and the Louisiana Republican bowed out of the race, leaving Jordan of Ohio to land the nomination after he fended off a brief, desultory challenge from Georgia Rep. Austin Scott.

While Jordan ended last week with tepid support from many in the House GOP, by Monday he’d flipped several key detractors and his opponents had dwindled. Whether he could secure enough support during an expected floor vote Tuesday remained unclear Monday afternoon, though political prognosticators began reading the tea leaves.

“Jordan will win the speakership tomorrow. It may take multiple rounds. Moderates will cave,” Florida Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz wrote on X. “This was always the plan by the Freedom Caucus. It wasn’t just about removing McCarthy, but installing one of their own. Freedom Caucus played chess. The rest played checkers.”

Democrats, in response, have begun making their own chess moves, launching campaigns Monday targeting Jordan and drawing attention to his role in spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election in the lead-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol; his staunchly antiabortion stance; and the allegations that he turned a blind eye to sexual assault while he coached wrestling at Ohio State University in the 1980s and 1990s.

On Monday, House Majority Forward, the nonprofit wing of House Democrats’ leading super PAC, launched robocalls in 11 districts — many of which are seen as highly competitive in 2024 — urging House Republicans to vote against Jordan as speaker.

“Republicans have nominated Jim Jordan for Speaker, who voted to overturn the 2020 election, defended the criminals who attacked the Capitol on January 6th, and is in favor of an extreme agenda to ban abortion nationwide, cut veteran benefits by 22%, eliminate health insurance for 21 million Americans, and fire 108,000 school teachers and aides,” the robocall says.

The calls targeted Reps. David Schweikert and Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, Bill Huizenga and John James in Michigan, and Nick LaLota, George Santos, Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Elise Stefanik and Brandon Williams, all from New York.

Also on Monday, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced a six-figure ad buy in support of Virginia state Democrats in response to the “silly, yet predictable Republican speaker fight.” 

“If national Republicans continue to show they won’t govern, why would Virginia Republicans be any different?” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Communications Director Abhi Rahman said in a statement announcing the investment in local races.

While other House Democrats stopped short of predicting an electoral boost in 2024, several, including Crockett, took shots at McCarthy for emboldening conservative members of his conference. 

“McCarthy enabled the far right. And now the far right wants to take complete control,” said Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro. “The far right over the last several years has moved front and center and now dominates the Republican Party in Congress and in the country.”

“This idea somehow that there are moderate voices in the Republican conference — I haven’t seen them. There are no more moderates in this place,” Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern said.

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has called for a bipartisan end to the impasse, in which Democrats would supply votes in exchange for concessions on rules and House procedures to better foster bipartisan governing.

By and large, Republicans have rejected calls for a bipartisan solution, though Kuster said as recently as Monday that some Republicans were still interested in working across the aisle, though they’d need to first hit “rock bottom” first before turning to their Democratic colleagues.

“I’ve talked to folks that are still interested, and I think they feel that tomorrow is rock bottom,” Kuster said.  “So we’ll have to see how that plays out.”

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