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Top One Magazine

Jim Jordan’s allies tried strong-arming his GOP critics. It backfired.

Jim Jordan’s allies attempted to badger House Republicans into making him speaker. Those tactics backfired on Tuesday, and could soon doom his speakership push outright.

The Ohio Republican’s most vocal GOP defectors during Tuesday’s failed speaker vote said they were pressured to back Jordan by party bosses back home and national conservatives with big megaphones. Most of those skeptics viewed it as a coordinated push with a threatening theme: Vote for Jordan — or else.

The arm-twisting campaign, which in many cases included veiled threats of primary challenges, was meant to help rally support behind Jordan’s candidacy. Instead, it has put the Judiciary chair’s bid on life support and threatened to plunge House Republicans deeper into turmoil with no clear way out.

“Jim’s been nice, one-on-one, but his broader team has been playing hardball,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told POLITICO about Jordan’s network of supporters, adding that he’s been getting calls from party chairs back in Nebraska. He added that his wife even received multiple anonymous emails and texts saying: “your husband better support Jim Jordan.”

He’s not the only one who faced significant pressure. Other Republicans, too, told POLITICO they have received a barrage of calls from local conservative leaders. They blame the onslaught on his backers even though, by all accounts, he isn’t directly involved. Even some of Jordan’s supporters acknowledge that the aggressive moves have set him back ahead of a potential second speaker ballot.

“I think some of it did backfire … and I think it was to the detriment of Jim,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a Freedom Caucus member who voted for Jordan, told reporters.

Acknowledging that his speaker bid is in limbo, Jordan punted his plan to hold a second vote on Tuesday after Republicans privately warned he was at risk of seeing his opponents’ numbers grow. Instead, he is expected to huddle with allies and make calls in an attempt to get his bid back on track before a second vote as soon as Wednesday.

“We’re going to keep working, and we’re going to get the votes,” Jordan said on Tuesday night, saying that Republicans were having “great conversations.”

But one House Republican, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about private conversations, said that Jordan and his lieutenants are “calling people who voted for him trying to stop the bleeding.” And they warned that those calls are “pissing off” members rather than winning them over, noting Jordan has failed to strongly and publicly disavow the attacks against his detractors.

While Republicans acknowledge the pressure tactics aren’t coming from Jordan directly — and others do credit him for keeping his distance from the hardball maneuvering — some don’t believe he’s done enough to tell allies to knock it off.

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) told POLITICO that the broader pressure campaign on social media had sparked discussions between the two Ohioans throughout the weekend. He added that he appreciated that “Jim didn’t necessarily support the strategy.”

And Jordan said in a tweet on Tuesday night that Republicans “must stop attacking each other and come together. There’s too much at stake.”

Some Republicans chalked up the frustration to a lack of understanding, on the part of both Jordan and high-profile conservatives off the Hill, about how less conservative colleagues operate. Some Jordan opponents said they hadn’t received a call from him directly about their concerns with his potential leadership, particularly on government funding.

That camp includes senior Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who said flatly: “I haven’t talked to him.” (Others like Bacon and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) have had multiple talks with Jordan.)

Jordan has made one-on-one calls and deputized allies throughout the conference to have conversations with holdouts or potential defectors from his side. But he also advised his colleagues to reach out to him if they had problems — which Republicans privately warned was a bad choice, depriving him of the chance to see the breadth of the resistance he would face.

When Jordan did take his nomination to the floor on Tuesday, some of his own supporters were shocked by the 20 no votes. One Republican aide compared it to a “doomsday” situation.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), who voted against Jordan on Tuesday despite outreach on Sunday, vowed after the first ballot on Tuesday that he wasn’t switching his position — ”especially now, in the light of these pressure tactics.”

”He supposedly said ‘stand down’ and they haven’t stood down. Leaders are followed,” Gimenez said, lamenting that ”some friends of mine [are] actually believing” conservative claims that he’s prepared to vote for a Democratic speaker.

Another Floridian who also opposed Jordan was more blunt: “The one thing that will never work with me — if you try to pressure me, if you try to threaten me, then I shut off,” GOP Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart said.

It’s not just the outside pressure tactics that are raising eyebrows within the conference. A meeting between Jordan and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Tuesday — which has sparked competing narratives about what happened — is renewing a public feud between the two men and their respective camps.

For governing-minded Republicans and centrists with a long memory, it was a throwback to the strong-arming that Jordan has publicly avoided in recent years as he’s climbed the ranks within the House GOP. For others, it amounted to a preview of the tactics that the ultraconservative Ohioan could employ if he claimed the top gavel — a readiness to unleash online wrath from the GOP base and its favored conservative pundits.

One of those Jordan-friendly commentators on the right, Benny Johnson, spent the day of the speaker’s race singling out Jordan’s possible opponents. In a move that is likely to further rankle already wary Republicans, Fox News host Sean Hannity’s staff posted a list of the 20 Republicans who didn’t vote for Jordan along with their office phone numbers.

“He’s lost support because of this,” said another House Republican who was granted anonymity to discuss internal conversations, pointing to a barrage of complaints from GOP lawmakers about Jordan allies’ tactics. “Constant smears — it’s just dishonesty at its core.”

Jordan and his allies spent the hours after the failed vote phoning his opponents. But privately, centrist Republicans predicted the more likely outcome as soon as Wednesday was empowering acting speaker Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) — not electing Jordan.

“I’ll go one more. But that is it,” said one centrist GOP member, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, threatening to oppose Jordan after the second ballot.

Following what’s likely to be a second ballot failure by Jordan, this member said, talks needed to pivot to giving McHenry more room to run the House. McHenry himself declined to answer if he thought Jordan should drop out: “That’s not a question I’m going to answer.”

Across the conference, Jordan’s near-collapse was met with shock by many who saw the Freedom Caucus co-founder as essentially the inevitable victor in the speaker race after two straight weeks of chaos. The Ohio Republican was the only one in McCarthy’s inner circle who’d earned the trust of those same hardliners who forced the Californian out — and Jordan pitched himself as able to control conservatives through the rest of the 118th Congress.

“He’s saying all the responsible things,” argued one House GOP aide who has been part of conversations between Jordan and some more skeptical members.

Meredith Lee Hill and Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

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