If the Republicans take the House back in the 2022 midterm elections, they get to pick a speaker, and there’s no requirement that the speaker has to be an elected representative.
“Can you just imagine Nancy Pelosi having to hand that gavel to Donald J. Trump?” mused Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a vocal Trump loyalist, when he spoke to a crowd in Iowa this summer. “She didn’t like when that Jan. 6 guy was sitting in her chair in her office. She is sure not going to like seeing Donald Trump sitting in her chair.”
Even if it sounds wild, Trump hasn’t shut down the idea when he has been asked about it, and it is causing people in both major parties to stop and think, since he remains the single most important Republican in the U.S. heading into next year’s elections. Congressional candidates eagerly seek his endorsement, and he’s actively exploring a run for president again in 2024.
Liz Harrington, a spokesperson for the former president, told NPR, “We know a lot of people are talking about it. A lot of people like the idea, but it’s nothing Mr. Trump is thinking about.”
But Trump was noncommittal when he appeared on Real America’s Voice and host David Brody asked, “Is that something that you would seriously even consider?”
“Well, I’ve heard the talk and it’s getting more and more, but it’s not something that I would have considered. But it is — certainly there’s a lot of talk about it,” the former president said.
And when asked about the idea by conservative talk show host Wayne Allyn Root, Trump said, “You know, it’s very interesting. That’s so interesting.”
Why would Trump actually want to be speaker?
At first glance, being speaker might have a lot of appeal.
“You know, he might think that this is going to be fun and he can kind of drive Joe Biden crazy,” said Republican strategist John Feehery, who was once press secretary to House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
Trump could be the automatic foil to President Biden, commanding media attention 24/7.
And then there’s the appeal of State of the Union night, when he would get to stand behind Biden, just like the current House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stood behind Trump when he was president.
It’s a mass media performance opportunity Trump would revel in. And as some of his supporters like Root have suggested, the speakership would be the perfect place for Trump to take political revenge from.
“You become the speaker of the House, lead the impeachment of Biden and start criminal investigations against Biden,” Root told Trump. “You’ll wipe them out for his last two years, and then you’ll be president. Do it!”
But the downsides could also be tremendous, even if Trump clearly wanted the job. Feehery thinks he couldn’t really offload all the actual work of the speaker’s office to House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, or “my Kevin” as Trump likes to call him, who would ostensibly be his No. 2.
“You can’t avoid the responsibilities, no,” Feehery said.
Even in theory, it’s a potential midterm mobilizer
Unless and until Trump himself totally shuts down all this chatter, Trump as a potential speaker is becoming a political issue. Republicans in Make America Great Again districts love it, Republicans in swing districts don’t and it’s something that could help Democrats mobilize their base.
“The idea for some that Donald Trump could become the speaker of the House is almost as frightening as the idea of him becoming president again,” said Democratic strategist Karen Finney. “That will potentially advantage Democrats — again, just the fear of it, just the very thought of it.”
Democrats would want to force every Republican House candidate to answer the question: If Trump wants the job, would they vote for him?
Saying no would anger their MAGA base, but saying yes would risk turning off swing voters who are exhausted with the former president. They’d be stuck, which is appealing to Democrats.
“I think it’s totally fair game,” said Democratic strategist Doug Thornell. “Look, like Republicans do this to Democrats all the time. To our front-liners, they say, ‘Well, would you vote for Nancy Pelosi?’ For Republican members, yeah, they should absolutely be on the record on … would they vote for Trump as speaker.”
For Republicans, according to one lobbyist, the thought of Trump as speaker is either a joke or a nightmare or a dream come true.
Feehery is among those who consider the concept a clear plus for Democrats.
“If we lose this election, it’ll be because the election’s not about Joe Biden but about Donald Trump,” he said. “I know that Trump believes that everything good happens when the people talk about him. But actually, in this midterm election, for Republicans to be successful they need to kind of keep the focus on Joe Biden’s failures, not Donald Trump’s speakership.”
Trump himself will have a lot of control over how that plays out because he continues to sway what many Republicans are talking about.