Will Jim Jordan Bullying Backfire?

Will at least four Republicans have a spine?

POLITICO (“Jim Jordan’s allies tried strong-arming his GOP critics. It backfired.“):

Jim Jordan’s allies attempted to badger House Republicans into making him speaker. Those tactics backfired on Tuesday, and could soon doom his speakership push outright.

The Ohio Republican’s most vocal GOP defectors during Tuesday’s failed speaker vote said they were pressured to back Jordan by party bosses back home and national conservatives with big megaphones. Most of those skeptics viewed it as a coordinated push with a threatening theme: Vote for Jordan — or else.

The arm-twisting campaign, which in many cases included veiled threats of primary challenges, was meant to help rally support behind Jordan’s candidacy. Instead, it has put the Judiciary chair’s bid on life support and threatened to plunge House Republicans deeper into turmoil with no clear way out.

“Jim’s been nice, one-on-one, but his broader team has been playing hardball,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told POLITICO about Jordan’s network of supporters, adding that he’s been getting calls from party chairs back in Nebraska. He added that his wife even received multiple anonymous emails and texts saying: “your husband better support Jim Jordan.”

He’s not the only one who faced significant pressure. Other Republicans, too, told POLITICO they have received a barrage of calls from local conservative leaders. They blame the onslaught on his backers even though, by all accounts, he isn’t directly involved. Even some of Jordan’s supporters acknowledge that the aggressive moves have set him back ahead of a potential second speaker ballot.

“I think some of it did backfire … and I think it was to the detriment of Jim,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a Freedom Caucus member who voted for Jordan, told reporters.

Acknowledging that his speaker bid is in limbo, Jordan punted his plan to hold a second vote on Tuesday after Republicans privately warned he was at risk of seeing his opponents’ numbers grow. Instead, he is expected to huddle with allies and make calls in an attempt to get his bid back on track before a second vote as soon as Wednesday.


But one House Republican, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about private conversations, said that Jordan and his lieutenants are “calling people who voted for him trying to stop the bleeding.” And they warned that those calls are “pissing off” members rather than winning them over, noting Jordan has failed to strongly and publicly disavow the attacks against his detractors.

While Republicans acknowledge the pressure tactics aren’t coming from Jordan directly — and others do credit him for keeping his distance from the hardball maneuvering — some don’t believe he’s done enough to tell allies to knock it off.

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) told POLITICO that the broader pressure campaign on social media had sparked discussions between the two Ohioans throughout the weekend. He added that he appreciated that “Jim didn’t necessarily support the strategy.”

And Jordan said in a tweet on Tuesday night that Republicans “must stop attacking each other and come together. There’s too much at stake.”

Some Republicans chalked up the frustration to a lack of understanding, on the part of both Jordan and high-profile conservatives off the Hill, about how less conservative colleagues operate. Some Jordan opponents said they hadn’t received a call from him directly about their concerns with his potential leadership, particularly on government funding.

That camp includes senior Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who said flatly: “I haven’t talked to him.” (Others like Bacon and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) have had multiple talks with Jordan.)

Jordan has made one-on-one calls and deputized allies throughout the conference to have conversations with holdouts or potential defectors from his side. But he also advised his colleagues to reach out to him if they had problems — which Republicans privately warned was a bad choice, depriving him of the chance to see the breadth of the resistance he would face.

When Jordan did take his nomination to the floor on Tuesday, some of his own supporters were shocked by the 20 no votes. One Republican aide compared it to a “doomsday” situation.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), who voted against Jordan on Tuesday despite outreach on Sunday, vowed after the first ballot on Tuesday that he wasn’t switching his position — ”especially now, in the light of these pressure tactics.”

”He supposedly said ‘stand down’ and they haven’t stood down. Leaders are followed,” Gimenez said, lamenting that ”some friends of mine [are] actually believing” conservative claims that he’s prepared to vote for a Democratic speaker.

Another Floridian who also opposed Jordan was more blunt: “The one thing that will never work with me — if you try to pressure me, if you try to threaten me, then I shut off,” GOP Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart said.

It’s not just the outside pressure tactics that are raising eyebrows within the conference. A meeting between Jordan and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Tuesday — which has sparked competing narratives about what happened — is renewing a public feud between the two men and their respective camps.

For governing-minded Republicans and centrists with a long memory, it was a throwback to the strong-arming that Jordan has publicly avoided in recent years as he’s climbed the ranks within the House GOP. For others, it amounted to a preview of the tactics that the ultraconservative Ohioan could employ if he claimed the top gavel — a readiness to unleash online wrath from the GOP base and its favored conservative pundits.

One of those Jordan-friendly commentators on the right, Benny Johnson, spent the day of the speaker’s race singling out Jordan’s possible opponents. In a move that is likely to further rankle already wary Republicans, Fox News host Sean Hannity’s staff posted a list of the 20 Republicans who didn’t vote for Jordan along with their office phone numbers.

“He’s lost support because of this,” said another House Republican who was granted anonymity to discuss internal conversations, pointing to a barrage of complaints from GOP lawmakers about Jordan allies’ tactics. “Constant smears — it’s just dishonesty at its core.”

Jordan and his allies spent the hours after the failed vote phoning his opponents. But privately, centrist Republicans predicted the more likely outcome as soon as Wednesday was empowering acting speaker Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) — not electing Jordan.

“I’ll go one more. But that is it,” said one centrist GOP member, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, threatening to oppose Jordan after the second ballot.

Following what’s likely to be a second ballot failure by Jordan, this member said, talks needed to pivot to giving McHenry more room to run the House. McHenry himself declined to answer if he thought Jordan should drop out: “That’s not a question I’m going to answer.”

That it’s come to the point where a figure as widely despised in his own caucus as Jordan was even nominated for Speaker is just incredible. In a normal world, the strong-arm tactics—which include even threatening Members’ wives!—would harden the resolve against him. But most of these folks have demonstrated themselves to be spineless for years now.

They’ve failed test after test after test. This one is incredibly easy. Indeed, voting against Jordan should be a joyous action. We’ll see if they manage to pass this one.

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    While Republicans acknowledge the pressure tactics aren’t coming from Jordan directly — and others do credit him for keeping his distance from the hardball maneuvering — some don’t believe he’s done enough to tell allies to knock it off.

    Talk about damning with faint praise, this is disqualifying all by itself.

  2. Rick DeMent says:

    And McCarthy is pining this on the Democrats? It’s the Democrats fault for not bailing out Jim Jordon? I mean you could point at McCarthy and say, “Well Jefferies got more votes then Jordon, by that same exact logic it the failure of Republicans to split off a half a dozen votes to give the gavel to Jeffries. Why didn’t they do that? Or make a deal with Democrats. Honestly funding for both Ukraine and Israel and the Senate bill for the budget would do it to get the right amount of Dems to vote present but no one would trust Jorden to follow though.

    The Republican’s could break the logjam by a number of paths but none of them is palatable to them so their idea is to blame it on Democrats.

    They are all acting like that are 12, but with less sense.

  3. ptfe says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Turning a blind eye is what Jim Jordan does best.

  4. Scott says:

    Follow on Politico article: Revenge of the squishes

    “The adults were fed up,” said one top aide to a member opposing Jordan. “They knew they had to act now or never.”

    The unlikely centrist rebellion has now backed Jordan into a corner. His allies expected a conservative media pressure campaign to subdue any resistance. Instead it backfired, hardening the opposition.

    Facebook sneer from fake tough guy congressman Chip Roy:

    Today’s central observation: the Defense (HASC) and Spending (Appropriators) world does not like to be challenged. Tsk. Tsk.


    “I’m not backing down – we’re going to change this town or bust it. My colleagues think they’re going to roll over me or roll over Jim Jordan? They’re out of their mind.

    My snarky reply for what it’s worth, not that Chip gives a damn about my opinion:

    “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”.

  5. Franklin says:

    Will at least four Republicans have a spine?

    Might as well ask if invertebrates have one.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @ptfe: Seems to me he is blind in both eyes.

    @Rick DeMent: Well, nothing is ever their fault. They’re innocent! Innocent I tell you!

  7. KM says:

    @Rick DeMent:
    Dems have agency, Repubs do not.

  8. JohnSF says:

    @Rick DeMent:
    McCarthy expects the Democrats to vote Jordan in as Speaker?
    Is he insane, or does he think they are?

  9. MarkedMan says:

    I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this and will mostly await the outcome. But one thing I will be looking for: how much of the opposition is anonymous when they are talking to the press. They will end up going whichever way the wind blows.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    “Will at least four Republicans have a spine?”

    Ladies and gentlemen, yet another shining example of the so-called Party of Personal Responsibility in action!

  11. steve says:

    Meh, still expect him to win. People will cave. I was wondering, where and when has Jordan shown leadership? AS I understand it he has never passed a piece of legislation. Maybe he helped start the Freedom Caucus but has he ever done leadership on a larger scale?


  12. Jen says:

    “Jim didn’t necessarily support the strategy.”

    “Didn’t…necessarily…support…” That’s not exactly the emphatic message one might want to hear in this situation.

    @ptfe: Now THAT is the entire situation distilled to a soundbite.

  13. Jen says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    And McCarthy is pining this on the Democrats? It’s the Democrats fault for not bailing out Jim Jordon?

    John Kasich, of all people, is out pushing this nonsense line too.

    These Republicans can all GTFO with this nonsense. It is not the job of Democrats to save their asses from each other. Nope. PROVE YOU CAN GOVERN, GUYS.

  14. gVOR10 says:


    McCarthy expects the Democrats to vote Jordan in as Speaker?
    Is he insane, or does he think they are?

    No. But he thinks his constituents will buy it. He’s probably right. Any reporter hearing this should ask what Jordan, or Scalia, or McCarthy offered the Democrats.

  15. al Ameda says:

    And Jordan said in a tweet on Tuesday night that Republicans “must stop attacking each other and come together. There’s too much at stake.”

    … and there you have it
    res ipsa loquitur

  16. becca says:

    Well, Jordan got Tom Cole to kiss the hem and speak for Jordan. Cole voted for Jordan first round, so no surprise there. GOP support applause seems forced. Dems are UNITED and invigorated. Getting ready for round two. Scott Perry, big Jordan ally, thinks Gym is going down again. Fingers crossed!

  17. Pete S says:

    I think the bullying has a bad effect two ways for Jordan. 1 is the theme of the posts above, that it hardens support against him.

    But more important bullying people to do what he wants is his whole image. If he can’t do that, what is he good for even to people who do support him? Bullying and failing should be the end of his political career. Once Trump wakes up from his nap today he should begin publicly running away and then its over for Jordan.

  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Pete S: I’ve been wondering the same thing. What good is a bully who can’t bully people?

  19. Gavin says:

    bullying people to do what he wants is his whole image

    Bullying is both his image and his substance. He’s a zero as a professional congressperson. JJ hasn’t sponsored a single bill which became law since he got to DC in 2006.

    His most significant legislative accomplishment? Creating the Weaponization of the Fed Gov subcommittee of Judiciary… The body created on pure party lines to investigate people investigating Trump. Of course.