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Jim Jordan

Scalise is out. Can Jordan win?

If you were counting Steve Scalise out, you were right.

Scalise’s blockbuster decision on Thursday night to withdraw his name for consideration as speaker shows once again just how toxic it is inside the House Republican Conference. They’re all but ungovernable. Forget about compromising with Democrats or President Joe Biden. This group of House Republicans won’t even compromise with each other. They’re deeply distrustful of anyone in leadership not named Donald Trump. And they’re unwilling to accept the realities of divided government — or simply governing at all.

Yet now the House Republican Conference needs to face this jarring reality: The floor has been shut down for going on two weeks, the federal government runs out of money in a month, our vital ally Israel is involved in an existential war and, due to endless GOP infighting, there is no speaker.

With Scalise and Kevin McCarthy both out of the running, as of now, the klieg lights are shining brightly on House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Jake scooped last night that Jordan was already making calls for another possible speaker bid. We have more below on why the 59-year-old Jordan is and isn’t a good fit for the post.

Jordan told us walking out of the Thursday night conference meeting that he didn’t have any announcement yet and was simply thinking of Scalise. But shortly after that, Jordan began making calls.

“Tomorrow, we’re going to meet as a conference. I think we will come together behind a candidate and then we will move forward for the good of the country,” Jordan said, referring to the party meeting today. We wonder if Jordan will want to move quickly to an internal party vote for speaker and then onto the floor as soon as today or this weekend.

Before you tweet at us or fire off a nasty email, we’ll say it first — Jordan only got 99 votes in the House Republican Conference’s internal speaker election Wednesday. That’s a huge 118 votes shy of the 217 he’ll need to be speaker. It will be very difficult for Jordan to get there, even with support from Trump and conservative outside groups. And, after this week, there’s bad blood between the Jordan and Scalise camps that will make it even tougher.

There are already five GOP lawmakers who say they’re prepared to vote against Jordan on the floor: GOP Reps. Austin Scott (Ga.), Carlos Giménez (Fla.), Ann Wagner (Mo.), Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.). Some of these members are close Scalise allies. There’ll be more, especially with Jordan seen as the main culprit in Scalise’s collapse.

We’re also told that Reps. Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) are both looking at running for speaker, although we think Jordan would have a significant advantage.

Scalise was always going to have a tough time winning enough votes to get the speaker’s gavel — as will Jordan. But Jordan’s backers waged a determined backroom effort to push aside Scalise, according to GOP insiders.

It kicked into high gear Wednesday after Jordan narrowly lost the speaker election to Scalise. Jordan gave an emotional speech in which he pointedly declined to endorse the Louisiana Republican. Jordan said he’d only back a candidate that could get 217 votes inside the GOP conference before going to the floor. The speech stunned some members, who saw it as Jordan undermining Scalise’s attempt to win over the Ohio Republican’s backers.

Jordan’s team said they wanted to make sure no speaker nominee went through what McCarthy endured during January’s prolonged speaker vote. That’s why, in part, Jordan backed a proposal offered by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) to mandate the 217-vote threshold before the speaker election. But Republicans tabled the rule change after a spirited debate.

Scalise’s camp had apparently offered to back Jordan if he won the speaker election and expected the same from him. With Republicans reeling from McCarthy’s unprecedented ouster, this was seen as a key step in uniting the conference. It didn’t happen.

Jordan later told Scalise he’d nominate him on the floor for speaker, yet it came with a catch — if Scalise didn’t get to 217, Scalise would then nominate Jordan for the post. Scalise saw this as a trap. Jordan could convince some of his hard-core supporters to hold back, ensuring that Scalise couldn’t get 217. Scalise would then have to back Jordan anyway.

Scalise’s aides didn’t comment on this exchange. Here’s Russell Dye, Jordan’s spokesperson:

There was no call back, of course.

Trump’s comments about Scalise’s health Thursday also were seen as part of a broader whispering campaign against the Louisiana Republican. Scalise is undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Scalise insists he’s fine and says he could’ve handled the speaker’s job, although Jordan supporters mentioned this issue repeatedly.

In addition, there were behind-the-scenes efforts to resurrect the 2015 controversy over Scalise’s appearance before a white-supremacist group years earlier. Scalise apologized for the incident, and both McCarthy and then-Speaker John Boehner backed him up.

One final point — if Jordan does become speaker, Scalise is going to be his majority leader. How will they be able to get along after all that just happened?

— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

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