House Majority Whip Tom Emmer is the natural front-runner to be the next man up in the Republicans’ three-week-long search for a new speaker, except for one glaring problem: former President Donald Trump.
Trump allies in the media started blitzing Emmer with attacks on Friday, hoping to derail his House speakership bid before it can truly begin, all while boasting that the ex-president agrees with them. “Tom Emmer is Nancy Pelosi in a Suit,” one far-right news outlet declared, referring to the former Democratic speaker.
After Representative Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the House’s top job and the subsequent failures of Representative Jim Jordan and Representative Steve Scalise to unite the party, Emmer is the only Republican left who has previously won an internal party contest — giving him an obvious advantage over the mostly little-known representatives tossing their hats in the ring ahead of a new internal party vote scheduled for Tuesday. He also has the backing of McCarthy.
With the margin of error in the speakership fight so small — Emmer or another candidate can only lose five Republican votes on the floor — those advantages may prove moot in the face of Trump’s opposition.
Trump’s dislike of Emmer is rooted in both the Minnesotan’s decision on January 6, 2021, not to vote to overturn the 2020 presidential election — even though he signed on to an earlier petition asking the Supreme Court to do so — and for reportedly giving midterm candidates the wholly sensible advice that they should avoid focusing on Trump, who remains deeply unpopular with the American public, while running for office in 2022.
Trump has yet to play a serious role in the speakership fight. He made little effort to save “my Kevin,” as he called McCarthy, and his endorsement of Jordan for the job did not significantly move the needle for the Ohioan, who was bleeding votes before dropping his bid Friday.
A spokesperson for Emmer’s leadership office was conciliatory in a statement to Politico. “Whip Emmer worked hand in hand with President Trump to help House Republicans fire Nancy Pelosi and retake the majority,” Casey Nelson said. “If he becomes Speaker, Whip Emmer looks forward to continuing that productive relationship.”
For now, Trump-aligned commentators, including former White House strategist Steve Bannon, are using social media and podcasts to suggest that Emmer is a swamp creature unaligned with the Make America Great Again movement. (Emmer voted with Trump roughly 90% of the time during the latter’s presidency.)
Bannon devoted most of the Friday edition of his “War Room” podcast to bashing Emmer. “Tom Emmer, the biggest never-Trumper in the House, a guy who hates Donald Trump,” Bannon declared, while also slamming McCarthy for backing Emmer.
“Here’s the probability Tom Emmer is going to be speaker: zero,” he added.
Laura Loomer, the Islamophobic right-wing influencer who has allied herself with Trump, similarly insisted that the long-time Republican is a closet liberal. “Tom Emmer is one of the worst members of Congress,” she wrote on social media. “He’s essentially a Democrat.”
Emmer has served in the House since winning a seat in the 2014 Republican wave. Before that, he narrowly lost the Minnesota governor’s race in 2010, served as a stage legislator for six years and worked as a lawyer.
Emmer’s major competition for the speakership looks to be Representative Kevin Hern, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives covering roughly three-quarters of the 221-member Republican conference.
The other potential and announced candidates for speaker have far less power within the House. Representatives Byron Donalds, Jack Bergman, Roger Williams, Jodey Arrington, Pete Sessions, Austin Scott and Mike Johnson are among the other Republicans either considering or actively running for the speakership.