Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, announced Thursday he plans to mount an anti-establishment run for speaker of the House -- presuming Republicans keep control of the chamber.
“Should the American people entrust us with the majority again in the 116th Congress, I plan to run for Speaker of the House to bring real change to the House of Representatives," Jordan said in a statement.
Jordan added, "President Trump has taken bold action on behalf of the American people. Congress has not held up its end of the deal, but we can change that. It’s time to do what we said.”
A Jordan aide said the lawmaker sent a letter to colleagues announcing his campaign.
Jordan has long suggested he’s interested in a leadership bid next year. The announcement comes a day after Jordan and other conservative lawmakers -- who have hammered the Justice Department over its handling of the Russia investigation -- introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the current speaker, has announced plans to retire at the end of the term; he also opposes the Rosenstein impeachment effort.
A Jordan bid is considered an uphill climb. First, Republicans must maintain control of the House for him to have a chance. Second, Jordan would face likely competition from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and others.
McCarthy, the majority leader, said during a speech to conservatives on Wednesday that he plans to run.
“I do not want to see Nancy to come back as speaker,” McCarthy said at the Turning Point USA conference, referring to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “I want the next speaker to come from California, but I don’t want it to be Nancy. I want it to be me.”
Jordan would likely have the 40-plus votes of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. But it is less certain whether Jordan could command the 218 votes necessary to win the speakership on the floor on Jan. 3.
Fox News has been told by multiple sources over the past couple of weeks that Jordan’s candidacy could be seen through the lens of a “spoiler” or “kingmaker.”
Under that thinking, Jordan is likely to command at least 40-plus votes – enough to deprive McCarthy or Scalise the votes for speaker on the floor. But, if either of them -- or another candidate -- bows to Freedom Caucus demands, Jordan, and thus the Freedom Caucus, could then throw their support behind that person.
House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., among other conservative members of the group, quickly announced their support for Jordan on Thursday.
"He was a two-time national champion [wrestler]...I never knew him to get on the mat and expect him to lose," Meadows told reporters.
Jordan is also expected to have the support of outside conservative groups affiliated with the Tea Party, like FreedomWorks, which said Thursday they plan to spend at least a half-million dollars in support of Jordan’s bid.
But Jordan would have trouble attracting widespread GOP support because some Republicans outside the Freedom Caucus don’t appreciate his guerilla tactics. Jordan, a three-time All-American wrestler in college, also still faces scrutiny over what he did and didn’t know 30 years ago about allegations of sexual abuse when Jordan served as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State.
Earlier this month, he told Fox News that the allegations are “bogus.”
“I never saw, never heard of, never told of any kind of abuse," Jordan said. "We would’ve dealt with it if we knew of anything that happened.”
It comes amid uncertainty over Republicans holding the House. University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” this week said for the first time this year that Democrats have the edge in retaking the House.
“Put it all together, and the Democrats now look like soft favorites to win a House majority with a little more than 100 days to go,” the site said.
Also on Wednesday, a Quinnipiac poll said Democrats lead Republicans by 12 points in a generic House ballot, with Democrats favored over Republicans 51 percent to 39 percent.
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.