On Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan took a pass on the best chance he is likely to ever have to serve in the Senate.
The firebrand Ohio Republican, who has become a national conservative hero for his bulldog demeanor and unapologetic (and unwavering) support for former President Donald Trump, would have been the clear favorite to be the Republican nominee in the open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman. But he decided not to run.
Which raises one simple question: Why?
After all, the Senate is generally speaking seen as more prestigious and a better launching pad to national office. And from a purely logistical perspective, the Senate terms are six years rather than the two-year terms in the House – meaning you don’t have to constantly be preparing for the next campaign.
Well, let’s start with what Jordan’s own office said about why he wasn’t running for Senate.
“Mr. Jordan believes at this time he is better suited to represent Ohioans in the House of Representatives, where as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, he can advance an America first agenda, promote conservative values, and hold big government accountable,” a spokesman for the Ohio Republican said by way of explanation.
Which makes some sense! In essence what that quote says is that Jordan has a lot of seniority and prominence among House Republicans and doesn’t want to give all that up to start as a low-ranking member of the current minority party in the Senate. Totally! And not a dumb decision, either.
But I also think there are a few other calculations going on in Jordan’s decision to stay in the House. Consider:
* There’s no guarantee of victory. Yes, Jordan would have started as the favorite for the Republican nomination due to his overt Trumpy-ness. (The former President would likely have waded into the primary to endorse him.) And because Ohio is now a lean-Republican state in federal races, any Republican would be a better-than-even bet to beat a Democrat in the general election. But there were worries within the GOP that Jordan’s brand of conservatism would not wear well in suburban areas around Cleveland and Cincinnati – where Republicans need to contend in order to win statewide. Jordan is no dummy, he knew that. And he knows that it’s a lot easier to win (and win again) in his strongly conservative House district than statewide in Ohio.
* He’s perfectly positioned in the House. The House GOP leadership is in turmoil. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is back to trying to make nice with Trump after suggesting that maybe the ex-President might have, you, know, kind of – maybe! – played a role in inciting the crowd that stormed the US Capitol on January 6. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in House leadership, is currently embroiled in a fight not just for her leadership gig, but for her seat after voting to impeach Trump earlier this month. Meanwhile Jordan sits back, watches and waits. If a shakeup comes – and that wouldn’t likely happen until after the 2022 election – he is in the catbird’s seat to make his move to lead House Republicans given that the party’s conference has grown even Trump-ier in recent elections and Jordan is a hero to that crowd.
* He’s high-profile enough already. One of the main reasons that House members – particularly from large states with huge delegations – run for Senate is to distinguish themselves from the pack. Being a House member in a state as big as Ohio can mean you are largely unknown to the national media and donor world. That’s obviously not the case for Jordan. He is a regular on Fox News’ conservative primetime lineup. He has almost 2.5 million Twitter followers. Aside from Trump himself, Jordan may well be the most recognizable (and beloved) Trumper in the country.
It used to be a no-brainer that when a Senate seat opened up, the best-known and most ambitious House members would run for that seat because, well, serving in the Senate was seen as more prestigious (and serious) than being in the House. Jordan’s no-go decision is a testament that that conventional wisdom has grown stale in the age (and aftermath) of Trump.