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Jim Jordan Misses the Mark
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Jim Jordan Misses the Mark

As Jordan scrambles to secure the votes for House speaker, some Republicans fret about his fundraising chops.

Rep. Jim Jordan talks to reporters on October 18, 2023, in Washington. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! Anybody out there want to be House speaker? Now’s the time to pipe up.

Up to Speed

  • President Joe Biden arrived Wednesday for a diplomatic mission to Israel as violence continues in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks on southern Israel last week. A deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza City—which Palestinian authorities blamed on an Israeli strike, but Israeli officials said was the result of a failed rocket launch from Gaza by an extremist group—scrambled Biden’s trip before it even began. A planned summit with leaders from Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority was scrapped in the wake of the blast. Biden still held face-to-face meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.
  • In the first floor vote for House speaker since the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio failed to secure the 217 necessary votes on the first ballot Tuesday afternoon after 20 Republicans cast ballots for some other members of their party. Rather than call a second vote immediately, Jordan postponed the second ballot until Wednesday at 11 a.m. The House will continue to vote until Jordan withdraws his name or someone is elected speaker. 
  • The presence of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the ballot could tip a competitive contest between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden in the incumbent’s favor, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. In a two-way hypothetical contest between the two frontrunners, Biden leads Trump nationally 49 percent to 46 percent. But with RFK Jr. included, Biden’s lead grows by four points: Biden 44 percent, Trump 37 percent, Kennedy 16 percent.
  • Sen. Tim Scott’s Trust in the Mission super PAC is dialing down its TV presence three months after committing $40 million for ad buys through the fall. “We aren’t going to waste our money when the electorate isn’t focused or ready for a Trump alternative,” super PAC co-chair Rob Collins wrote in a memo to donors. “This electorate is locked up and money spent on mass media isn’t going to change minds until we get a lot closer to voting.” The South Carolina Republican is trailing significantly in most polls.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Never Back Down super PAC has launched a new ad blitz against former South Carolina governor and ambassador Nikki Haley as she continues to gain ground on DeSantis in several key early states. Quoting a weekend CNN interview from Haley—“America’s always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists”—the ads suggest Haley would welcome refugees from Gaza into the United States, while DeSantis would not. (Haley was not saying anything to that effect in her CNN appearance.)
  • Former newscaster and failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake landed a key GOP endorsement this week in her bid to unseat independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the latest sign that the party establishment has despaired of anyone else beating the ultra-MAGA election truther in the Republican primary. “Kari Lake will shine brightly for Arizona,” Senate Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso of Wyoming said in a statement. “She is a generational communicator who is giving voice to Arizona citizens.”
  • Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko on Tuesday unexpectedly announced she would not seek reelection, opening a seat in the Republican-leaning 8th district in the northern Phoenix suburbs. Two Republicans who lost statewide races in last year’s midterms immediately signaled their interest in the seat: Abe Hamadeh, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general, announced within hours he would run, while Blake Masters, who failed to defeat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, posted a “thank you for your service” message to Lesko on social media.

Jordan Falls Short on First Speaker Vote

Rep. Jim Jordan isn’t there yet. The Ohio Republican seemed to be building momentum Monday, as lawmaker after lawmaker who’d signaled they’d oppose him as speaker announced he’d won them over. But when the floor vote came Tuesday, Jordan ran aground on the brutal math of the current Congress: In a razor-thin majority, even a few holdouts are too many. In the end, 20 Republicans voted for someone other than Jordan—four times the total needed to sink him.

Some who opposed Jordan on the first ballot were doing so more as a protest against the burn-it-all-down philosophy that led to the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a McCarthy friend and ally going back to their days in the California State Assembly, said he would vote for Jordan next time after casting his first vote for the deposed speaker.

“Some people feel pretty strongly about it,” LaMalfa told reporters Wednesday. “My strong feelings are for supporting Kevin and showing them that support after what I think is just the heinous thing that happened to him.”

Yet it seems likely to get worse. The hardball vote-whipping strategy pursued by Jordan’s team may have cowed many of the 55 lawmakers who said in last week’s secret ballot that they would not support him on the floor. But once it became clear Jordan hadn’t been able to simply bludgeon the entire conference into submission, the number of objectors is likely to grow. Several of Jordan’s Republican holdouts, smelling blood in the water, clamored for an immediate second vote; instead, Jordan chose to fall back and regroup, scheduling the second vote for later today.

The unofficial leader of that group of holdouts, Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart of Florida, spent several minutes on the House floor following Tuesday’s vote speaking with Jordan. But when Díaz-Balart emerged and spoke with reporters, he repeatedly said “I am where I am” and “I have no intention of moving” from his opposition to Jordan for speaker. The South Florida Republican voted for Majority Leader Steve Scalise on the first ballot.

Asked by The Dispatch if he expected Jordan to have fewer net votes on the second ballot, Díaz-Balart said, “I would guess that would be the case.”

The truth is that nobody knows what will happen next. But the signals coming from Jordan’s camp suggest he’s currently looking more for a scapegoat for his failure than a push over the finish line. Shortly after the vote, Jordan met with Scalise—then immediately leaked that Scalise “wouldn’t commit” to helping him get the votes he needed.

Another data point suggesting a speaker resolution isn’t immediately at hand: Punchbowl News reported last night that Republicans expect someone to introduce a resolution to give Rep. Patrick McHenry, the House’s temporary speaker, more official powers until a new speaker is finally selected.

Fundraising Ability Presents Hurdle for Jordan

If Jordan manages to cobble together the votes for speaker, the House will finally be able to resume its work. But many Republicans privately fret that Jordan would represent a major step backward when it comes to one of the speaker’s main partisan responsibilities: Raising the money necessary to protect the majority in next year’s elections.

As Jordan has become a favorite of the grassroots right in recent years, he’s become a respectable fundraiser individually and for the Freedom Caucus’s political action committee, the House Freedom Fund. But he’s done so as an online-fundraising, small-dollar maven, not by cultivating the stable of big-dollar donors that have become an increasingly important part of the political-spending arms race over the last few cycles.

Jordan’s allies say it matters little that he has few preexisting relationships with big donors—that money simply comes with the territory of being speaker. If anything, they argue, Jordan’s small-dollar prowess could add a significant new revenue stream to House Republicans’ major fundraising committees.

“Jim has a tremendous online presence where he’s raised a lot of money. I think he understands and has told people he knows the importance of being speaker and what that means for fundraising,” Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood told The Dispatch Tuesday. “So he’s acknowledged that that’s going to be an important part of the job, and I would never underestimate Jim Jordan.”

Moreover, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy—whose affiliated committees routinely smashed fundraising records during his tenure—has aligned himself with Jordan, is advising him behind the scenes, and could remain in a fundraising role should Jordan take the gavel. Much of the fundraising infrastructure McCarthy had built and was overseeing will still exist for his successor.

“Kevin hasn’t gone away,” Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada said. “One thing’s become clear since Kevin said, ‘Hey, I’m not gonna try to run again [for speaker].’ He didn’t pack up his office and go back to Bakersfield.”

But strategists and fundraising pros tell The Dispatch it’s still way too optimistic to expect Republican fundraising to glide along under Jordan like it did under McCarthy, particularly given the strident political style Jordan is known for.

“I don’t think anyone can reasonably expect anyone to go from where Jordan is to putting together a political machine that’s going to raise $100 million in something like 54 weeks,” one veteran Republican strategist with House clients says. “Inheriting the team is one thing. But trying to build relationships, experience, is something completely different.”

“The McCarthy team is keeping their next moves close to the vest, but I would imagine some of the staff go work for him,” a GOP fundraising consultant adds of a potential Jordan speakership. “But regardless, I don’t see how they make up the [money]. These major donors are furious and the infrastructure is set up so that Kevin raises most of the money on the hard dollar and soft dollar side. … A lot of major donors have said bye to the House.”

A senior GOP Senate aide concurs with that last point: “There’s no doubt a big chunk of money from political giving budgets has shifted from the House to the Senate over the last week.”

Notable and Quotable

“We are inches away from electing Speaker Jim Jordan. But RINO’s are working with RADICAL DEMOCRATS like AOC, ILHAN OMAR, and RASHIDA TLAIB to BLOCK JIM JORDAN from becoming SPEAKER!!” 

Fundraising email sent by Rep. Matt Gaetz, October 17, 2023

“This email was sent by a vendor without my team’s approval. It should not have been sent. I sincerely apologize to Mike Lawler and anyone else who felt targeted by this [ill]-conceived email message. I will make changes to ensure this does not happen again. I intend to heed Speaker-Designate Jordan’s call to not attack fellow Republicans as we work through this.”

—Rep. Matt Gaetz, responding to criticism of that fundraising email, October 17, 2023

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.