Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican?

It’s not just conservative hard-liners who are rooting for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to lead the House GOP conference next year. 

Several members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest caucus on Capitol Hill, told The Hill they’d be open to Jordan as well. 

Most GOP lawmakers don’t believe the conservative ideologue can amass the 218 votes needed to become Speaker on the House floor. There are too many rank-and-file Republicans who still hold a grudge against the former Freedom Caucus chairman for forcing out then-Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Ohio Republican, in 2015 and tormenting his successor, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

{mosads}But if Republicans get wiped out in the November midterm elections and lose their majority, some Republicans say Jordan — a President Trump loyalist and scrappy college wrestling champ — could be the perfect foil to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democrats as that party investigates and possibly tries to impeach the president.

The minority leader post requires only a simple majority of the Republican conference, which could mean as few as 90 to 95 votes if GOP ranks are decimated this fall. With roughly three-dozen members, the Freedom Caucus could be expected to supply about one-third of those votes for Jordan. Another benefit for Jordan: If Democrats knock off moderate Republicans, the GOP conference would shift in a more conservative direction.

“That might be the perfect job for Jim Jordan because of his fighting attitude and his fighting spirit; he doesn’t back down,” one RSC member told The Hill. “I think he would be a tremendous minority leader.”

After eight years in the majority, none of the House Republicans interviewed for this story are hoping to relinquish power to the Democrats. But the record number of GOP retirements coupled with a handful of Democratic special election victories has Republicans bracing for a blue wave in November.

Ryan, who will retire from Congress in January, has endorsed his top deputy, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), as his successor. But if Democrats recapture the House, restive rank-and-file Republicans may not want to stick with the same leadership team and instead hit the reset button. 

While McCarthy is close to Trump, he has served in GOP leadership under either Boehner or Ryan since 2009 — just two years after he first arrived on Capitol Hill.

“There will be a desire by some, maybe a lot, to go a different way. But it would take something like the loss of the majority,” said a second RSC member who said he could back Jordan as minority leader.

Another longtime RSC member, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), has said McCarthy is in a “strong position” to become the next Speaker. But Cole did not dismiss the idea of Jordan running for Speaker or minority leader after the midterm elections.      

“Jim is a good member; everybody has a right to run. But it’s like any other race — it’s about who else gets in it,” said Cole, an ally of both Boehner and Ryan who previously served as the House GOP’s campaign chief. “People will look at whoever runs and think, hopefully, ‘Who is the best one to hold the majority?’ — and we hope it’s the Speaker’s race — or ‘Who is the best one to get us back?’ And they will all make their case.”

Jordan, however, does have foes within his own party (Boehner ripped his fellow Ohioan as an “asshole” and “legislative terrorist” in an interview with Politico). Another RSC member said Jordan has engendered so much bad blood and infighting within the 236-member GOP conference that there would be a bloc of lawmakers who would do whatever it takes to deny him a leadership post.   

“He has zero support outside the Freedom Caucus,” argued the GOP lawmaker. “He has aggrandized himself at the expense of the conference his entire career. No one trusts him.”

In response to Ryan’s retirement announcement last month, the 54-year-old Jordan expressed interest in running for Speaker. A number of his Freedom Caucus colleagues have been urging him to run, and a handful of conservative groups — including FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots and Gun Owners of America — have launched a “Draft Jordan” campaign as well.

Jordan will give a private address to the Council for National Policy, a small group of powerful social conservatives, on Thursday.

“Jim Jordan is a proven conservative. One of his fundamental tenets for governing is that you should do what you promised voters you would do,” said Andy Roth, vice president for government affairs at the outside conservative group Club for Growth. “His candidacy to lead the House GOP is refreshing and much needed.”

Jordan hasn’t made any final decisions, but at a recent Lorain County Tea Party town hall, the five-term congressman let it be known that the minority leader post has at least crossed his mind, according to The Chronicle-Telegram.

“More important than who the Speaker is next year is what Republicans do this year. If we don’t get back to staying focused on the things that we were elected to do, then we may not have a race [for] Speaker. Maybe it’s for minority leader,” Jordan said at the event, arguing that Republicans need to tackle a more robust legislative agenda this year to have success at the polls. 

While a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1980s, Jordan was an NCAA Division I wrestling champ. The Urbana, Ohio, native later served as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University before winning seats in the Ohio General Assembly and Senate. Like McCarthy, Jordan came to the nation’s capital in the small GOP class of 2006 — when Democrats seized control of Congress. 

The 2010 Tea Party wave not only swept House Republicans into power, it propelled Jordan into the chairmanship of the RSC, which at the time was the most conservative caucus on Capitol Hill. In January 2015, Jordan helped launch the Freedom Caucus, a more conservative and nimbler group, and became its founding chairman.

Some RSC members and GOP aides say Jordan’s pugnacious personality and savvy communication skills would serve him well as minority leader. Jordan is a frequent guest on Fox News, but he also likes to mix it up with hosts on CNN and MSNBC.

Jordan, a member of the House Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform committees, has already proven he’s willing to strongly defend Trump. 

In January, both Jordan and close ally Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) called for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions over leaks from the Justice Department and FBI that the lawmakers saw as harmful to Trump. 

And the Freedom Caucus leaders have threatened to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over his handling of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign. 

“I think in many ways, his demeanor and his approach would make him a very good minority leader,” the first RSC member said.

Added a senior GOP aide: “You want a militant attack dog as the minority leader. You want someone who will be on TV all day, ruthlessly attacking the Democrats. You want the minority leader to be a staunch defender of the president, because Democrats will be focusing on impeachment and you want someone who will defend against that.     

“In some ways, Jim Jordan is the guy to do it.”

Tags Boehner Donald Trump House GOP leadership Jeff Sessions Jim Jordan John Boehner Kevin McCarthy Mark Meadows Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan Rod Rosenstein Speaker of the House Tom Cole

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