It’s a free-for-all in the GOP speaker race

It’s a free-for-all in the GOP speaker race

It was an anticlimactic ending for Jim Jordan on Friday. And minutes after the Republican conference booted the Ohio Republican as its speaker nominee, 86-112, the anticipated rush of alternative candidates began for the endlessly chaos-ridden House GOP.

Republicans have until Sunday at noon to submit their names for speaker, but more than a half-dozen are already making calls or floating their names: Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington (Texas), Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (Okla.), and Reps. Dan Meuser (Pa.) Austin Scott (Ga.), Jack Bergman (Mich.) and Byron Donalds (Fla.).

We expect several more to announce before the deadline. Republicans will return Monday night for a candidate forum, then a conference vote that’s likely to follow on Tuesday.

Here’s the important thing: None of those candidates is currently close to the near-total support in the GOP that’s needed to become speaker. And the sheer number of hopefuls jumping in is likely to only make it tougher for one to emerge with that support.

The further House Republicans go down their bench to lesser-known names, the more likely it is that their unprecedented speaker crisis drags past the one-month mark (it’s already more than halfway there).

“It’s probably impossible to announce a campaign for speaker in just a couple of days,” Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) said. “The process took [Kevin] McCarthy and [Nancy] Pelosi and many others months and years to build a confidence [among] members to get across the finish line. And to try to do so in a week, it’s pretty futile.”

Emmer goes into the race with the deepest strongest built-in reservoir of goodwill, as a former National Republican Congressional Committee chief. But as POLITICO has reported, he also has Trump world problems that his skeptics are likely to use against him.

Don’t forget the wild card: Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), who has led the effort to empower Acting Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), said his proposal is still an option if Republicans keep wandering in the leader-less wilderness.

“It was pretty clear that we need to empower a speaker. And for whatever reason, this group didn’t feel that was something that they wanted to do,” Joyce said. “So here we are.”

McHenry himself, after indicating Friday that he would be open to a vote on formally giving him power to run the House, suggested to colleagues that it was time to go home.

“The space and time for a reset is, I think, an important thing for House Republicans,” he said.

The latest source of anger: Scalise never took his speaker nomination to a floor vote, well aware that he wouldn’t get the support he needed. Jordan took the opposite route, pushing his bid to three rounds – and even though he only lost between 20 and 25 votes, that move engendered a lot more private frustration.

Think about it this way: When the conference asked in a secret ballot if Jordan should remain the GOP’s pick, his number of opponents went up five-fold from the public tally. It took a private vote to get the majority of House Republicans to reveal what they really thought: Jordan was done.

“We don’t feel good about anything that’s happening,” said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), one of Jordan’s opponents. “We shouldn’t be in this situation.”

Meanwhile, Jordan allies in the conservative activism sphere were starting to organize public shows of force outside the district offices of the Republicans who wouldn’t back him for speaker. Now that he’s formally out of the running, it’s unclear whether they will happen.

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