The battle to win the House speakership could hinge on a contingent of more moderate Republicans uneasy about the conservative politics of their two leading candidates and angry at their hardline faction for ousting Kevin McCarthy in last week’s unprecedented floor vote.
Behind the scenes, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio have been making a direct pitch to more centrist members, both insisting they will make their reelection battles a priority and ensure more stability atop the badly divided conference, according to sources familiar with the conversations.
Jordan and Scalise have made overtures to a bloc of New York Republicans who are among the most vulnerable in the House and would be considered a key prize for whichever candidate wins them over.
Scalise met virtually with the House Freedom Caucus on Sunday afternoon as he tried to lock down support ahead of a secret-ballot leadership election Wednesday to nominate a candidate for speaker, according to a person familiar with the matter. The move comes after Jordan met with the same group on Friday.
Jordan is also targeting a key constituency that is seen as up for grabs: moderate members who were loyal to McCarthy. Over the years, the former speaker has had a tepid relationship with Scalise, his top deputy, as the two were long seen as potential rivals. McCarthy, though, is staying neutral in the race right now.
Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida, a McCarthy ally who considers himself center right, said Jordan “certainly can win me over.”
“He was one of Kevin McCarthy’s most vocal supporters,” Gimenez told CNN. “And you know what? That carries a lot of weight.”
Jordan gained a key endorsement Friday from former President Donald Trump.
In a post on Truth Social shortly after midnight, Trump said Jordan “will be a GREAT Speaker of the House, & has my Complete & Total Endorsement!”
While his backing could boost Jordan’s support on the right, it won’t do much to sway moderates.
But many members are keeping their powder dry, worried that neither candidate would be able to win the support of nearly every Republican on the floor. That means the House could see a prolonged race, much like in January. Some members are holding out hope for a dark-horse candidate to emerge, potentially the interim speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who so far hasn’t taken steps for a possible run.