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Lawmakers, challengers echo talking points after speaker vote

Jordan's opponents mention similar themes, as do Dems challenging his supporters

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, R-N.Y., is seen on the House floor before a vote on making Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the speaker on Tuesday.
Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, R-N.Y., is seen on the House floor before a vote on making Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the speaker on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

On the first ballot to pick a new House speaker Tuesday, 26 of the 33 Republicans facing the most competitive races in 2024 voted for Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan for speaker.

And attacks flew quickly from Democrats in those districts, where Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales has assigned ratings of Toss-up, Tilt, Lean or Likely Republican.

“Tom Kean Votes for MAGA Extremist Jim Jordan for House Speaker,” blared the headline of a release from Democratic candidate Jason Blazakis, who is vying to challenge Kean in New Jersey’s 7th District. That race is rated Tilt Republican, and President Joe Biden carried the district by 3.8 points in 2020.

Blazakis’ statement was one of many with similarities to talking points circulated earlier Tuesday by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Many people killed when hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center or sickened by fumes working in its wreckage were from New Jersey, and part of the memo, and Blazakis’ release, attacked Jordan for “refusing essential aid for 9/11 victims.” Blazakis also accused Kean, who flipped the district by ousting Democrat Tom Malinowski last year, of following “marching orders” from former President Donald Trump, who backed Jordan. 

Democrats are convinced that tying opponents to Trump helped them keep Republicans’ majority to five seats in the 2022 midterm elections, and are eager to use the theme again in 2024, when Trump may be at the head of the ticket.

The DCCC “message guidance” also featured a bullet point saying Jordan “will only win the speakership if so-called ‘moderates’ continue to cave,” and another bullet saying Jordan “supports a nationwide abortion ban with no exemptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.”

And Democrat Christina Bohannan, who is vying to challenge Iowa Rep. Marriannette Miller-Meeks in a 1st District race rated Tilt Republican, seized on that point in reacting to Miller-Meeks’ vote for Jordan.

“Instead of working together to empower a moderate option that can get things done for Iowa, Miller-Meeks prefers an extremist who is the author of the GOP’s nationwide abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest,” Bohannan said in a statement. 

The DCCC memo also said Jordan was “one of the least bipartisan members of Congress, coming nearly dead last on the Lugar Center’s bipartisanship score.”

And a link to the Lugar Center was included in a statement from Democratic state Sen. John Mannion, who is seeking to challenge Rep. Brandon Williams in a Toss-up race in New York’s 22nd District.

“At a time when we need bipartisan agreements on Israel, Ukraine, the Farm Bill, to protect abortion rights and keep our government running,” Mannion said Williams voted for “one of the least bipartisan members of Congress.”

SALTy songbook

Some vulnerable Republicans who voted against Jordan also seemed to be singing from a common songbook.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, who won a New York district last year that Biden would have won in 2020 by nearly 15 points, told reporters on Monday night he had concerns about Jordan’s votes against health care for 9/11 victims and disaster aid funding for communities hit by Hurricane Sandy.

D’Esposito, who is also in a race rated a Toss-up, said in a statement on X after voting for former Rep. Lee Zeldin to be speaker he wants “a Speaker who understands Long Island’s unique needs,” including a federal tax deductions for state and local tax, or SALT, payments, as well as care for 9/11 victims and “investing in critical infrastructure.”

Echoes of that statement could be found in one from fellow New York Rep. Nick LaLota, who also represents a Long Island district and also voted for Zeldin. LaLota, whose race is rated Lean Republican, outlined four priorities for his preferred speaker by posting an image of a handwritten list on X. It read: “1) Keep gov’t open while cutting spending 2) SALT 3) 9/11 comp 4) Flood insurance.”

One strategist who works with Republicans in purple districts said the ongoing struggle to pick a speaker could have lingering effects.

“The longer Republicans look like they can’t even muster a majority of their members to support one person to lead them, it reflects poorly on the party as a whole and the first people to feel that are always going to be these Biden district people,’’ said the strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

“The party just seems to be dominated by these guys who don’t seem to care about getting things done, they don’t seem to care about bipartisanship, and I think that is what gives the party’s brand a beating,” he said.

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