Should Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) be elected House speaker, he will be the most ideologically extreme legislator to hold that position in recent memory. But his effort to win the gavel failed its first test on Tuesday afternoon — thanks to the least extreme members of his party’s House caucus.
Jordan could only afford to have a few Republicans decline to support his candidacy for the top job in the House, given the need for him to secure a majority of the votes for the position. He ended up losing far more than a few and more than most observers expected. Twenty members of the Republican caucus backed someone other than Jordan, most of them voting for ousted speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
There was a pattern to those rejections. If we consider the House GOP caucus on two measures — ideology and 2020 presidential vote — you can see that the cluster of opponents to Jordan overlapped more with the less-conservative, less-Republican range. (Ideology is measured using Voteview’s DW-NOMINATE score, which ranges from -1 (most liberal) to 1 (most conservative). 2020 vote by district calculated by DailyKos.)
The outlier in the opposing group was Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who we’ll come back to in a second. His district was less friendly to Donald Trump in 2020 than was Jordan’s, but they are rated similarly on the ideological score.
If we run averages, the point is more obvious still. The opponents of Jordan averaged an ideology score of 0.348; his supporters landed at 0.529. His opponents represent districts that supported Trump over Joe Biden in 2020 by an average of 8.5 points. Jordan’s supporters represent districts that backed Trump by an average of 21.6 points.
This is an important aspect of the vote, of course. Rep. Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.), for example, represents a district that voted for Biden by 10 points. Supporting Jordan would make his already challenging bid for reelection next year harder still.
Of the 18 districts held by Republicans that preferred Biden in 2020, six Republicans voted for someone other than Jordan. Twelve voted in support of Jordan, but that’s only 6 percent of Jordan’s votes. The six who rejected Jordan make up 30 percent of the anti-Jordan votes.
Buck opposed Jordan for a different reason: Jordan’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in favor of Trump. He pressed Jordan repeatedly on the subject, without, it seems, receiving a satisfying answer. A majority of Republicans in the House voted with Jordan to reject Biden electors from Arizona or Pennsylvania in January 2021; 96 percent of them voted to make Jordan speaker. Fifty-seven percent of his votes came from people who voted to reject Biden electors; three-quarters of those who opposed him didn’t vote that way (including members newly elected in 2022).
The question now is whether Jordan can peel off some of these less-extreme opponents, legislators who generally represent districts less amenable to further right legislators. Perhaps people like Lawler can be convinced that they’ve registered their opposition and to pivot to some line about the need for the House to get back to work.
Or, perhaps, the House Republican conference will revert to where it’s been the past few weeks: a collection of several increasingly disparate political clusters that can’t agree on a joint leader.