In California’s 45th Congressional District, a prominent billboard along Western Avenue in Buena Park is poised to showcase a photograph of Representative Michelle Steel alongside former President Donald J. Trump and Representative Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican she endorsed for the role of Speaker of the House.
This advertising campaign, funded by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is just one element of a broader Democratic strategy. They are focusing their efforts on Republicans like Ms. Steel, who represent congressional districts that President Biden carried in the 2020 election. A dozen of these vulnerable GOP lawmakers have made headlines this week by casting their votes to support Mr. Jordan, potentially positioning him as second in line for the presidency.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Integrity Project has launched a digital ad campaign in those same districts, emphasizing Mr. Jordan’s role in contesting the 2020 election.
The recent spate of infighting within the House Republican caucus has inflicted significant harm on the GOP’s brand. It has left the party without clear leadership and has stymied one of Congress’s chambers for over two weeks. This ongoing chaos has increased the likelihood of Democrats regaining the majority in the 2022 midterm elections. Furthermore, it provides ample material for their campaign narrative, which characterizes Republicans as right-wing extremists unfit to govern.
Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska, one of 18 Republicans representing districts won by President Biden in 2020, expressed concern over the potential damage inflicted on his party. He criticized the hard-right faction within the GOP, which attempted to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month, sparking a tumultuous struggle for his replacement. Bacon asserted that these hardliners may prefer minority status, as it allows them to vote against legislation and perpetually stir controversy.
Mr. Bacon and other mainstream Republicans are troubled that no matter who is elected as the Speaker, the very nomination of Jim Jordan has attached them to the most far-right members of their party, potentially jeopardizing their re-election prospects in 2024.
Republican groups are pushing back against the narrative of extremism and dysfunction. The American Action Network has initiated an ad campaign praising the 16 Republicans from districts that President Biden won, who voted to prevent a government shutdown last month.
During a recent speech on the House floor in which he nominated Representative Hakeem Jeffries as Speaker, Representative Pete Aguilar of California presented a compelling case against Jim Jordan. Aguilar’s arguments could easily be repurposed as campaign attack ads targeting any Republican who supported Jordan.
Jim Jordan’s candidacy, reflecting his association with the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus and his role in former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, has placed mainstream House Republicans in a precarious position. Should Jordan prevail in his bid for Speaker, it would solidify the image of the House GOP as a group largely composed of staunch Trump loyalists. On the other hand, if Jordan’s candidacy falters, it could prolong the chaos in the House, further entrenching the perception of Republicans as incapable of governing effectively.
Democrats have been circulating polling data that underscores public sentiment. A recent YouGov Blue poll revealed that 63 percent of respondents believe moderate Republicans should collaborate with Democrats to form a bipartisan governing coalition, while only 37 percent support collaboration exclusively within the GOP.
For instance, Christina Bohannan, a Democrat challenging Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks in a competitive Iowa district, criticized her opponent’s vote for Jim Jordan, emphasizing the misalignment between Jordan’s stance on a nationwide abortion ban and the preferences of over 60 percent of Iowans. Additionally, Miller-Meeks’ decision to support Jordan, who has consistently opposed farm bills, raises concerns in a state where agriculture is a vital concern.
Although some bullish Republicans dismiss the ongoing turmoil as “Beltway drama,” potentially forgotten by the 2022 midterm elections, others argue that the damage has already been done. Regardless of the outcome of the Speaker election, the controversy could negatively affect mainstream Republicans representing politically competitive districts.
The current political climate does not significantly differ from the previous year when Republicans narrowly secured the House majority. The main change is the increasing perception that House Republicans are struggling to govern cohesively. Moreover, with former President Trump likely to lead the GOP ticket in 2024, mainstream Republicans from swing districts face an additional challenge.
Despite the turmoil, some Republicans remain hopeful that their constituents will differentiate them from the prevailing chaos within their party. Representative Marc Molinaro of New York, representing a district won by President Biden, expressed confidence that voters will judge their representatives based on their actions, authenticity, and commitment to effective governance.