Tom Emmer is now the latest GOP frontrunner for speaker

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

We’ve now entered round three of the GOP speakership debacle, and a host of new candidates have made themselves known. Over the weekend, Reps. Tom Emmer (R-MN), Mike Johnson (R-LA), Byron Donalds (R-FL), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Austin Scott (R-GA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Dan Meuser (R-PA) announced their intention to take up the gavel. 

Of the nine candidates, the House Majority Whip Emmer is the clear favorite, having received backing from a substantial number of influential Republicans — and also Kevin McCarthy. 

He’s been active in the Republican Party since the mid-90s when he started in municipal-level politics. Since then, he served as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, ran for governor of the Gopher State in 2010, and now currently represents Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District — a spot previously held by Tea Party weirdo Michelle Bachman. (Oh, the halcyon days of Michelle Bachman.)

He also chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee from 2019 to January of this year. 

But Emmer's biggest asset has been the ability to ride the line between traditional Republican and Trump radical: A 2022 profile of Emmers called him the “Republican Party’s Stealth Bomber.”

“Emmer has had to walk a difficult path of courting candidates who won’t alienate moderates (he often trumpets the increased number of recruits who are women or people of color) while not offending those clinging to the Big Lie,” Patrick Caldwell of the New Republic writes. 

“As a result, 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.”

Case in point, while he did not directly declare President Joe Biden’s invalid victory and supported the certification of the 2020 presidential election, he did sign an amicus brief attempting to vacate Biden’s Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin electoral votes. 

And when announcing his bid for the speakership, Emmers combined classic conservative rhetoric around the crushing of Main Street and weak foreign policy while also bragging about “fighting a woke Defense Department agenda.” 

Apparently, Emmers has always been this way. Before making a debut on the national stage, Emmer sought to restrict access to voter ID, ban abortion under all circumstances, restrict birth control and reject same-sex marriage. Also, in an effort to undermine national regulations coming down from Washington, he sought to require a governor’s signature and a supermajority of votes in the Minnesota House to allow federal law to be enforced in the state.  

“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,” he declared. 

Indeed, some see Emmer as not so much a counterbalance against Trumpist extremism, but its precursor. 

He “embodied a lot of the positive attributes of Trump before Trump was cool,” Marty Seifert, a Minnesota Republican who worked with Emmer’s during his state legislature days, told Caldwell. 

“Outspoken, tell it like it is. Some people may not like you because of what you say, but I’m going to say it anyway.”

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Jamie Larson