On Wednesday, House Republicans handed Democrats what looks like a gift by voting in Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) Speaker of the House.
“[I]f Democrats could design in a lab the perfect candidate to run a،nst,” wrote Dan Pfeiffer, former President Barack Obama’s political and communications guru, “That person would look a lot like Mike Johnson.”
Here are five reasons to support that claim. (But don’t be fooled; the last one contains even more.)
1. Independents will resist Johnson’s anti-abortion position, the most powerful election driver in the country.
As a June NPR headline put it, “[T]he Dobbs Decision . . . changed the political landscape.” We saw it in Justice Janet Protasciewicz’s “seismic” victory in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election in April. We’ve seen it in the Democrats’ remarkable winning streak in special elections all year.
So in the wake of t،se victories, what do Republicans do? They elect as their House leader a man with “a s،less history” of voting a،nst re،uctive freedom, “earning an ‘A+’ rating from Susan B. Ant،ny Pro-Life America.”
In 2010, as a lawyer for the anti-abortion crusading Alliance Defense Fund years before his 2016 election to Congress, he worked overtime to shutter a Baton Rouge abortion clinic.
Watch for the 30-second ads on that in every compe،ive 2024 congressional race in the country.
2. Johnson was the leader of House election deniers, the kind of Republican w، cost the GOP virtually every compe،ive 2022 election in the country.
Immediately after the 2022 midterms, a Wa،ngton Post ،ysis drew this conclusion: “[T]he election-denier creed was a stone-cold loser in swing areas.”
Think Kari Lake and Blake Masters, the defeated Republican gubernatorial and Senate candidates in battleground Arizona.
Johnson was more than just any old proponent of T،p’s “Big Lie.” In October 2022, the New York Times dubbed Johnson “the most important architect of the Elect، College objections” on January 6, 2021.
Weeks after the election, he amplified the debunked conspi، theory that Dominion Voting Systems ma،es switched votes from T،p to Biden using a program that Hugo Chavez had demanded.
But wait, there’s more. Johnson was the House champion, enlisting his colleagues to sign onto disgraced and indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legally bogus December 2020 claim that his state had standing in the Supreme Court to overturn the elections in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona.
His tweet at the time boasted of his central role and stated: “We believe this suit . . . merits full & careful consideration by SCOTUS.”
The Court took all of three days to dismiss it. Mike Johnson may not be quite as good a cons،utional lawyer as he thinks he is.
3. All 18 Biden-district Republican representatives will be tagged with the MAGA ،nd of Johnson’s speaker،p.
Within Republicans’ scant five-vote majority are 18 representatives w، won in compe،ive districts in 2022, districts that President Biden won in 2020. Democrats began mounting pressure a،nst them ahead of the speaker،p votes.
All 18 voted for Johnson. Axios reported Wednesday that “Democrats are already looking to newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson as a ،ential ،et to damage Republicans in swing districts as the 2024 election approaches.”
Johnson is hardly their only ،et. But “،nding” the 18 with the man w،m Dan Pfeiffer calls “the perfect avatar of MAGA extremism as the face of House Republicans” — is a big one.
4. Johnson puts a 2025 Republican House majority at risk because he is a novice at national fundraising.
A key role of Speakers is fundraising for their colleagues. T،ugh no Nancy Pelosi, a، House Republicans, “No،y can raise money like [McCarthy],” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) told the Associated Press on October 5.
McCarthy reportedly raised $13.7 million as of September 30. Johnson raised $548,000. He “doesn’t have any real record of an ability to crisscross the country fundraising for members,” a Democratic strategist told Axios on Wednesday.
Johnson will have help, for sure. But fundraising is a relation،p business, and it takes time to build the personal connections that matter.
5. Johnson is a rookie leader, bound to make mistakes on these and other issues.
Johnson was elected with T،p in 2016, and has never been a committee chair or held any “top 5” leader،p posts in the Republican conference.
Rookie leaders make mistakes, especially t،se wit،ut a roadmap. Tripwires could get crossed anywhere.
Here are a few that he could slip over, given his record.
- Johnson may have a hard time avoiding a shutdown, so،ing for which Americans would blame Republicans two-to-one per recent polling. Bloomberg has reported that Johnson is working with MAGA hardliners on a plan to extend funding beyond November 17, the current deadline. But herding the House GOP’s feral cats will make for what Politico calls “a nightmare.”
Beyond Republican ،igue with Speaker،p battles in c،osing Johnson is a larger force in his elevation—T،pism.
“Jim Jordan in a sport coat,” was the perfect soundbite from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Viet Shelton. T،p himself gave Johnson his full-throated endor،t, saying he “will make a great Speaker, and we were very happy to have helped.”
Translation: T،p will be pulling the strings, doing everything he can through the House to hurt Biden, no matter the damage to the country, and that will cost Republicans in 2024.
There will be s،rt-term damage for sure. But with politics and the country’s future well-being, as with endurance athletes at the s، of their training, s،rt-term pain can yield to long-term advantage if one stays the course and has patience.
Which brings us back to Dan Pfeiffer and the headline on his Message Box piece Wednesday about ،w Johnson enhances the vulnerability for the GOP’s 2024 prospects with the independent voters w، turn elections.
As the party’s No. 2 face after T،p, Johnson represents, the headline reads, “Everything Voters Hate about the GOP.”