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GOP infighting overshadowed Trump endorsement in Jordan push to be speaker

Former president has yet to publicly weigh in on the next round of the search for a speaker

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, speaks Friday with Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., after the third failed vote to elect a new speaker of the House.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, speaks Friday with Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., after the third failed vote to elect a new speaker of the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former President Donald Trump’s endorsement didn’t pave the way to the speakership for Rep. Jim Jordan, whose bid ran into bitter Republican infighting, unrelated past grievances and complaints over strong-arm tactics.

As much as Trump remains the de facto leader of the Republican Party when it comes to the race for the White House, the former president’s endorsement of the Ohio Republican turned out to be largely inconsequential, lawmakers said.

“On the net, it didn’t hurt any more than it helped. And it didn’t help any more than it hurt,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., a fiscal conservative who has endorsed a Trump opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in the 2024 presidential primary.

Jordan, who spent years as one of Trump’s chief defenders in Congress, received Trump’s backing days after a group of eight Republicans ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. But Jordan’s bid for the speakership hit a wall of opposition from around 20 dug-in Republicans and flamed out over three failed floor votes last week.

Jordan faced opposition from lawmakers who were angered by the treatment of McCarthy and of Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., as well as from New York Republicans who wanted assurances on increasing the state and local tax deduction.

And over the course of Jordan’s bid, attention sharply turned to Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and other GOP lawmakers who received death threats after their votes in opposition to Jordan as speaker.

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., praised Jordan as well-suited to be speaker, but said his fall from the race didn’t have anything to do with Trump.

“The reality is some people had issues that they were not going to get over, which I think had absolutely nothing to do with Jim Jordan himself. It had everything to do with just resentment over other issues from January right up until this day,” Mast said.

“Saturday Night Live” even took notice, with an opening sketch that had a Jordan impersonator say to a Trump impersonator: “But you endorsed me, and I still lost.” And the Trump impersonator replied: “It seems to happen a lot. It’s happening a lot.”

As the GOP conference starts Monday to sort through the nine Republicans now seeking to become the next speaker, it’s unclear whether Trump’s backing will make a difference in this era of the speaker vacancy drama.

Trump has not weighed in publicly on any of those who are now seeking the speaker post, but Politico reported that the former president privately told allies he does not back Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., for speaker.

With any speaker nominee only able to lose a handful of GOP votes and still win the gavel, Trump’s ability to shape the race could be more as spoiler than kingmaker.

Mast said candidates for speaker will not be able to get out of the gate without the support of Trump.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., chair of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, said he thinks a candidate can win the speakership with or without the former president’s endorsement.

A few members in the party have said they would follow Trump’s signals, including Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., who backed Jordan earlier this month after initially supporting Scalise.

She said she had backed Scalise after he made several commitments, including defunding the office of special counsel John L. “Jack” Smith, who supervises the federal cases against Trump. But Luna withdrew her support after Trump made comments about Scalise’s health in a Fox radio appearance.

“We’re going to go with whoever Trump endorses,” Luna told reporters after she changed her allegiance. “I need someone that can unite the conference, because we’re fractured.”

After his statement on Scalise, Trump remained largely silent about the speaker race. Multiple Republicans said they were not aware of any calls Trump had made on Jordan’s behalf and downplayed the significance of the endorsement.

Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., said such an effort by Trump would not end up moving the needle for a certain segment of the GOP conference. Aderholt said he had not heard about Trump making phone calls on Jordan’s behalf.

“He’s been tied up with a lot of other things on his plate right now,” Aderholt said.

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