Speaker Mike Johnson’s rapid about-face in the Montana Senate race — abandoning plans to endorse Rep. Matt Rosendale’s (R-Mont.) expected bid — was the latest embarrassing moment of indecision for the speaker.
But even after Johnson flip-flopped on his planned endorsement, Rosendale is insisting the speaker still has his back.
“I’ve got an outstanding relationship with Mike Johnson,” Rosendale told us in an interview late Thursday. “He said ‘I’m supportive of Matt Rosendale, and I’m going to send him a check to prove it.’”
Of course, this comes after we reported Johnson’s plans that he’d formally endorse Rosendale for Senate. Shortly after our story broke, Johnson abruptly changed course due to strong pushback from senior Senate Republicans. The episode caused panic in Johnson’s orbit.
Johnson said he would give money to Rosendale but not endorse anyone in the race.
As we know, Johnson’s endorsement would’ve irked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm. Senate Republicans are backing Tim Sheehy in the contest to take on incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Several Republicans have privately and publicly lamented that Rosendale’s candidacy would hurt the GOP’s chances of winning the seat.
Rosendale — who Tester defeated handily in 2018 — said he never spoke with Johnson in person about an endorsement. Rosendale claimed he texted Johnson for the first time mentioning an endorsement at noon on Wednesday. By that evening, Johnson told Rosendale he would back him.
“We went from an endorsement to non-endorsement to Mike calling me up last night and saying that he was supporting me and [then that] he was not going to be able to give an endorsement. Fine. Great,” Rosendale said.
Rosendale also dismissed reports that his vote for the Israel aid bill was in exchange for Johnson’s endorsement. The Montana Republican, typically a fiscal hawk, said he voted for the bill to simply support Israel.
An irate Rosendale then berated the national media for not asking who is spreading the rumors of a quid pro quo with Johnson.
Here’s a tidbit:
— Mica Soellner