Some things are apparently even too messy for former President Donald Trump.
Trump told reporters Friday he was staying out of the nine-way race among House Republicans to become speaker and replace the deposed Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
The search for a successor will enter its fourth week on Tuesday as Republicans went back to the drawing board Friday after Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) ignominiously exited the race after his fellow House Republicans voted to rescind their nomination of him.
“I’m trying to stay out of that as much as possible. But they’ll get it straightened out,” Trump told reporters in New Hampshire, where he was filing to appear on the state’s Republican presidential primary ballot next year.
Trump had publicly backed Jordan amid internal party opposition in the House, where moderates and members of the powerful Appropriations Committee balked at the idea of the Ohio firebrand taking the speakers’ gavel.
While Trump posted his support on social media, he did little else publicly as Jordan’s candidacy bled support in successive rounds of floor votes.
Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the current whip and third-ranking leader in the House GOP hierarchy, is widely seen as the front-runner in the crowded field. Emmer last year won the race for the post of whip, which tracks how party members plan to vote. Prior to that, he headed the National Republican Congressional Committee for two election cycles, including the 2022 one that flipped control of the House back to Republicans.
Asked about Emmer, Trump said, “I’ve always gotten along with him. I get along with all of them.”
Emmer was one of two candidates for the House GOP speaker nomination who voted to certify the 2020 election in the face of Trump’s insistence against all evidence he had won. Over the weekend, Trump’s allies signaled they would would try to derail Emmer’s candidacy on behalf of Trump.
Trump’s loyalty to current or potential House speakers seems to wax and wane. His lack of a substantive show of public support for Jordan as Jordan was having trouble closing the deal in his own party likely helped seal Jordan’s fate.
Also, after McCarthy had resurrected Trump’s political fortunes within the Republican Party in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Trump had called McCarthy “my Kevin” as a sign of approval.
But when McCarthy helped negotiate bipartisan deals that avoided a catastrophic U.S. debt deal or a government shutdown without extracting much in the way of concessions from Democrats, Trump fumed. When McCarthy was toppled by a group of eight House Republicans led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Trump ally, Trump said Gaetz might have done a big favor to everyone, presumably excluding McCarthy.
“He was upset that Kevin was doing a lot of the [former president Barack] Obama work. He was working on the budget and getting something approved that we could have gotten a lot for. And the debt ceiling, everybody was hurt with that,” Trump said of Gaetz in a radio interview with Fox News host Brian Kilemeade.
“Maybe we’ll end up with one of the great speakers of all time. In which case, Matt Gaetz did a tremendous favor,” Trump said.