The New Frontrunner for the Worst Job in Washington

Hours after the House GOP conference met and ended Jim Jordan’s futile quest for the House speakership, Rep. Tom Emmer is apparently the latest Republican to launch his own gambit for the seemingly unattainable gavel. CBS News reported that the lawmaker was “making calls in pursuit of a nomination” on Friday evening, hours after Republicans kicked Jordan to the curb. Emmer, the current majority whip, had previously said that he would not seek the speakership. The Minnesota Republican has already been cast as the new frontrunner; Reps. Kevin Hern and Jack Bergman have apparently also said they would be pursuing bids in the wake of Jordan’s failure to launch.

Prior to becoming the House Majority Whip, Emmer served as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, where he presided over the GOP’s strategy to win back the House of Representatives.

But while Republicans spent the year in anticipation of a “red wave” that would sweep their members into office in the typical way that the party out of power makes gains during the midterm following the presidential election, those hopes were dashed on election night when the party fell far short of expectations. But Emmer distinguished himself as a voice of temperance in the lead up to the election, where he urged Republicans to not count their still-incubating chickens: “Don’t be measuring the drapes,” Emmer told his colleagues. “This isn’t the typical midterm that we’re talking about.”

Emmer wasn’t always known for circumspection; his career in Minnesota marked him more of a far-right firebrand. In a 2022 profile for The New Republic, Patrick Caldwell described Emmer as a “stealth bomber” who’d learned to “mute his rhetoric” so that he could more successfully fit in within the party’s Beltway institutions and become a party up-and-comer. Nevertheless, as Caldwell reported, Emmer’s time in the Minnesota statehouse found him promoting a lot of weird ideas:

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His tenure was defined by pushing far-right policy: proposals that Minnesota should chemically castrate sex offenders, impose strict voter ID laws, and outlaw abortion in all instances (as well as proposals that would also potentially outlaw certain forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization). He questioned evolution and was one of the loudest, most influential opponents of same-sex marriage. And despite two earlier DUI infractions, Emmer put forth bills to lessen penalties for drunk driving, which became fodder for opponents in later political campaigns.

Another of Emmer’s obsessions was pushing cockamamie ways that Minnesota could nullify federal laws. He was one of three co-authors of a 2010 proposal for a state constitutional amendment that would have required the governor and a two-thirds vote by legislators to approve a federal law before it could be enforced in Minnesota. “Citizens of Minnesota are sovereign individuals, subject to Minnesota law and immune from any federal laws that exceed the federal government’s enumerated constitutional powers,” Emmer’s would-be amendment read. (The idea went nowhere.)

As Caldwell summed up, “While Emmer may be successful—perhaps even winning himself a leadership post atop a House majority—he’ll have gotten there on the backs of insurrectionists and conspiracy theorists.”

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