We now have two official candidates to succeed Kevin McCarthy: Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan. It seems unlikely we’ll get another candidate, at least another with a real shot at winning.
Despite the fact that Jordan is from the Freedom Caucus and Scalise was in effect McCarthy’s deputy, Jordan is a McCarthy ally. From the outside, we tend to see the House in ideological or partisan terms. But there are factions and alliances that transcend those divisions. Indeed a leader’s faction almost by definition has to span the ideological breadth of the caucus. That’s the only way to win a leadership election. In many ways, this succession fight is between Team Scalise and Team McCarthy, with Jordan being the nominee of Team McCarthy.
Both men are significantly to the right of McCarthy. They’ll both almost certainly be more aggressive and right wing as Speaker simply because of how McCarthy lost power. Both men come with significant baggage.
Remember that Jordan was involved in what was pretty clearly turning a blind eye to and covering up a major college wrestling molestation scandal. It’s impossible to believe that won’t come in for another hearing if he becomes Speaker. He only barely survived the original scandal. It ended with House allies deciding it didn’t matter. The Speakership is different. He’s also Mr. Impeachment.
Scalise’s image has been significantly softened in recent years by genuinely horrific health challenges (devastating gunshot wounds and then his recent cancer diagnosis) but he comes out of the fairly unreconstructed Louisiana GOP right. He once notoriously told voters that he was like David Duke “but without the baggage.”
There’s no way countless 2024 Democratic House campaigns wouldn’t love to run on Jim Jordan as a significant part of their campaigns.
Scalise is probably in the more favored position. But not by a lot. McCarthy’s decision to bow out, certainly so rapidly, took everybody by surprise. So the whole situation remains fluid and unpredictable.