Handicapping U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer’s chances to become the next speaker

D.C. tipsheets game it out, but one problem emerges: Not Trumpy enough

By: - October 23, 2023 5:01 am

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-MN, talks with reporters as he departs a Republican conference at the U.S.Capitol Photo by Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images)

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer of the 6th District is the early favorite to become the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to D.C. insider tip sheet Punchbowl News

He’s developed relationships with a wide cross section of the GOP conference as the current majority whip — the No. 3 position in the caucus usually tasked with counting votes. Emmer also helped Republicans pick up House seats in 2020 and 2022 as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, where the NRCC became known for its prodigious fundraising.

Emmer, who narrowly lost the 2010 race for governor to Mark Dayton before his election to Congress in 2014, won the endorsement Friday of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who was recently deposed, leading to the recent chaos.

Emmer benefits from a big field that may struggle to coalesce around an Emmer alternative, as well as members’ impatience with their party’s chaos, which has embarrassed House Republicans on the national stage even as they cling to a thin majority heading into 2024.

Punchbowl reports that other potential candidates include Reps. Byron Donalds, Jack Bergman, Roger Williams, Austin Scott, Jodey Arrington, Pete Sessions, Mike Johnson, Kevin Hern and Mark Green.

Emmer faces key opposition: The Trumpists. Politico reported Friday that “former President Donald Trump privately conveyed to allies on Friday he does not back Emmer’s bid for speaker.”

Although Emmer was a relatively early and loyal Trump backer in 2016, he voted to certify the 2020 presidential election results. He called the events of Jan. 6, 2021 an “unacceptable display of violence that runs counter to everything we stand for as a country.”

In the same news release after the Jan. 6 insurrection, he also rejected the Trump team’s legal theory of overturning the election: “Simply put, Congress does not have the authority to discard an individual slate of electors certified by a state’s legislature in accordance with their constitution. Doing so sets a precedent that I believe undermines the state-based system of elections that defines our Republic.”

Emmer also advised GOP candidates to stay away from Trump distractions during the 2022 campaign and focus on issues that mattered most in their districts, which likely irked Trump.

Politico described a rapid response from the Trump camp Friday:

Trump supporters have begun passing around opposition research on the congressmember, and the pro-Trump “War Room” podcast on Friday afternoon turned into an Emmer bash-fest. During an appearance on the program, top Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn noted that Emmer had yet to endorse Trump in the Republican presidential primary.

“If somebody is so out of step with where the Republican electorate is, where the MAGA movement is, how can they even be in the conversation?” Epshteyn said.

Aside from his relatively rapid rise in the House Republican conference, Emmer has also distinguished himself by winning friends on Wall Street, and emerging as the crypto industry’s closest ally on Capitol Hill, despite representing a suburban, exurban and rural district with a tiny crypto and financial services footprint.

This story was originally published in the Minnesota Reformer.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.

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