Trump involvement in Speaker’s race carries risks

Former President Trump has inserted himself into a split House GOP conference as he wades into the debate over who should be the next Speaker, a move that carries risks for the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination.

Trump endorsed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for Speaker late Thursday following the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). It’s a move that, if successful, would elevate one of the former president’s staunchest allies to the top job in the House and cement Trump as a kingmaker in the GOP.

Trump is also toying with the idea of going to the House on Tuesday to speak to the GOP conference, an effort that could put pressure on lawmakers to back his choice for the next Speaker.

It’s not clear that Trump is pleased his preference for Jordan was leaked out to the media.

Jordan faces stiff competition for the role from Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Trump’s influence could take a hit if the GOP conference does not rally behind his preferred candidate.

“If he publicly backed someone and they don’t get it, that looks bad on him,” said Sarah Matthews, a former Capitol Hill staffer and former press aide in the Trump White House.

Multiple sources suggested Trump’s team may have been frustrated when Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, late Thursday that the former president intended to back Jordan. Nehls previously had floated Trump as a prospective Speaker candidate himself.

The Nehls post about Jordan put an end to that speculation, and it prompted Trump to publicly back Jordan while the Ohio Republican’s path to the gavel is still far from solidified.

One former Trump official downplayed any fallout from the Nehls post, saying it was not a big deal.

But there is still a slight risk that Trump’s endorsement of Jordan will backfire if the conference does not rally behind the Ohio Republican.

It’s unclear if Trump’s backing helps Jordan with Republicans who won districts that President Biden carried in 2020, and it is unlikely to clear the field for Jordan ahead of next week’s candidate forum.

The Democratic National Committee, which wants to tie the House GOP to Trump, argued the former president’s role in the Speaker debate was a sign he “not only owns the House GOP circus, but remains its proud ringleader.”

Jordan’s primary competition for Speaker within the House GOP appears to be Scalise, another Trump ally who has been climbing the ranks of party leadership in recent years and has his own bloc of support within the conference.

“I don’t think it’s going to completely flip this in Jim Jordan’s favor. I have to imagine Team Trump is not thrilled he had to come out and that his thinking was leaked,” Matthews said. “It will help Jim Jordan, but I still think it’s going to be really tight and going to be really tough.”

Jordan was a staunch Trump ally throughout the Trump presidency. He was a fervent defender of Trump’s during his two impeachments, and Trump awarded the Ohio Republican the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2021.

Since Trump left office, Jordan has been a loyal attack dog against the Biden administration, echoing the former president’s allegations that investigations into his conduct are politically motivated.

“I do think Trump backing him is helpful to Jim Jordan’s odds, just because he’s the GOP front-runner right now for the nomination, so in effect he’s the leader of our party,” Matthews said. “And I think that would be helpful to someone trying to appeal to those hard-right members who voted to oust McCarthy.”

If successful, it would be another major win for Trump, who is already viewed as the most influential individual in the party and is by far the front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2024, based on polling.

Trump has already racked up dozens of endorsements from House GOP lawmakers, significantly more than his next nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Should Jordan win the gavel, it would put a Trump ally in charge of the House at a time when Republicans are pursuing an impeachment inquiry into Biden and debating government funding for the Justice Department, Ukraine aid and other priorities Trump has an interest in.

Multiple sources downplayed the idea Trump was ever seriously considering serving as Speaker, in part because he was unlikely to ever secure the votes needed to win the gavel. But his play was a textbook example of the former president sucking up all the oxygen during a news cycle and putting himself at the center of attention.

“It would aggrandize him. It would give him another title. He could preen around there like the peacock he is and act like a big shot. He wouldn’t do anything,” Chris Christie, one of Trump’s 2024 rivals, said Thursday on CNN about the prospect of a Trump Speakership.

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