Could Jim Jordan be next Speaker?

Rep. Jim Jordan says he has no desire to be the next Speaker of the House, but he might be drafted anyway.

When fellow Ohio Republican John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE eventually decides to call it quits, Jordan — a former college wrestling champ who is beloved by conservatives — could be well-positioned to run against the current Speaker-in-waiting, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).


As chairman of the new House Freedom Caucus, a band of nearly 40 conservative rebels bent on pulling leadership to the right, Jordan has a high-profile platform, a staff and a natural base of support should he seek a job in leadership. And his backers say he was the most effective chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) in recent history.

Jordan says it’s all a silly exercise, noting that he has said in multiple interviews that he won’t run for Speaker.

“I don’t want the job. I don’t want to be Speaker. There are lots of other people in our conference who could do a better job. That’s not what I’m focused on,” Jordan said in an exclusive interview with The Hill.

“I’m focused on trying to help our group and our entire conference do what’s best for families across this country, and when you do that you’re doing things that are good for the country.”

Friends and allies of Jordan on Capitol Hill also insist he doesn’t want the Speaker’s gavel — but there’s a caveat.

“Some of the best leaders the world has ever seen had to be convinced to become a leader. Case in point: George Washington. He didn’t want to become president of the United States; he wanted to go back to his farm,” said Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonTrump endorses Kari Lake to succeed 'RINO' Doug Ducey as Arizona governor The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Former Rep. Matt Salmon launches gubernatorial bid in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.), who along with Jordan is one of the nine founders of the Freedom Caucus.

“Sometimes people are put in situations because their country needs them. And at some point in time that will probably be the case with Jim Jordan.”

In part, that’s how he found himself leading the Freedom Caucus, which formed in January and now meets each week over pizza and soft drinks in a fourth floor conference room in the Cannon House Office Building.

Jordan’s colleagues drafted him to lead the growing group, whose membership list is not publicly disclosed.

“He didn’t ask for it or anything. I think we looked to him, his experience being a chairman,” said Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingLobbying world Trump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress MORE (R-La.), another Freedom Caucus co-founder who sometimes dines with Jordan. “He took a lot of heat [at the RSC], but he came through that. He handled it very gracefully, and at the end of the day, I think, managed it quite well.”

Jordan’s tenure as RSC chairman, which began with Republicans winning control of the House in 2010, was rocky at times. In one RSC meeting, some members called on Jordan to fire then-executive director Paul Teller for sending emails to outside conservative groups urging them to rally opposition against a BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE debt plan. The distrust among members led to some defections under Jordan.

The conflict at the committee left Jordan with some bruises, but allies say he emerged on top.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jordan was an NCAA Division 1 wrestling champ, and the Urbana, Ohio, native later returned home to coach at Ohio State. Listening to his yarns about the old wrestling days, it’s easy to see why his GOP colleagues say they “gravitate” to him.

Jordan says he hasn’t seen the dark wrestling film “Foxcatcher” yet, but he personally knew all the people who were portrayed in the movie, including John E. du Pont, and brothers Mark and Dave Schultz.

“I knew du Pont, and he was as goofy as Steve Carrell plays him. That’s him. He’s just a crazy, weird dude,” Jordan said.

On a 1988 trip abroad to Georgia, Jordan said he was stunned to see fathers and sons cheering on Mark Schultz against a Russian wrestler. “Schultz beats him and they all go crazy. They’re saying, ‘Shul-TEE! Shul-TEE!’ ” Jordan recalls, getting animated.

Boehner, now in his third term as Speaker, has given no indication of when he’ll leave Congress. But after two failed coup attempts and constant rebellion from an unruly caucus, many predict this will be his last go-round.

McCarthy, the affable majority leader and former whip, would be the favorite to succeed Boehner, given his massive fundraising operation, familiarity with the process and deep knowledge of the Republican conference.

“John Boehner is philosophically conservative; so is Kevin McCarthy. When you have a number of members who reject virtually any solution you put forward, at that point ideology really isn’t the issue,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who is close to leadership and criticized the tactics of conservatives in the recent fight over immigration policy and funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“Some folks are just rejectionists and they have a hard time getting to yes. To be in leadership means you have to get to yes, but get others to get to yes and develop a plan or a path to a solution.”

Jordan and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), who later joined the interview with The Hill, both said the Freedom Caucus shouldn’t be seen as a “Hell, No Caucus.” They see it as a smaller, more nimble version of the RSC that can work within the system to influence the GOP on upcoming issues, such as renewing the Export-Import Bank, replenishing the Highway Trust Fund and raising the debt ceiling.

Three weeks ago, Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) sat down for an hour with the caucus’s co-founders to discuss his 2016 blueprint, and Jordan appears ready to support it.

Asked how he would describe his current relationship with Boehner, Jordan said the two men “get along fine,” though he left it at that — perhaps a sign of simmering tensions after a Boehner-aligned outside group attacked Jordan in TV ads for not backing the Speaker’s DHS plan. 

But Jordan said he has an open line to Boehner’s top aide, chief of staff Mike Sommers. “Mike calls me on the phone. I call him on the phone.” And Jordan and other Freedom Caucus leaders are in near-daily contact with McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).

“He’s got the toughest job in town. It’s not easy, and I respect that,” Jordan said of Boehner. “There have been times that we disagreed. There might be times in the future we disagree, but our group is committed to doing it in a constructive way.”