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Tom Emmer Wins the Thankless Task of Corralling the GOP’s Likely Narrow House Majority

Meet the Minnesota Republican who led the party’s midterm campaigns.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Representative Tom Emmer listens to Kevin McCarthy on election night at what was supposed to be a victory party.

When I profiled Representative Tom Emmer for The New Republic’s summer issue previewing the midterms, the Minnesota Republican seemed to be on a gilded path toward rising through his party’s ranks and wielding the power he’s long sought in Washington. As the chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee, Emmer was expected to oversee a “red wave” surge that would produce a massive GOP House majority, collecting IOUs and plaudits from new members along the way. Instead, Republicans still don’t control the Senate, and the House has yet to be called a week after the midterms, with an exceedingly narrow GOP majority.

As a result, instead of a smooth ride up the ranks, Emmer only narrowly bested Indiana Representative Jim Banks 115–106 on Tuesday to become the GOP Whip.

The whip, the third-ranking spot in House leadership, is primarily tasked with keeping party members in line and corralling votes on tough bills. Thanks to the probable narrow majority, which means that just a few stray defections from the likes of Matt Gaetz and Majorie Taylor Greene could tank the party’s aspirations, that job could end up being more of a nightmare for the next two years.

I wrote about Emmer over the summer since I’ve covered his political aspirations off and on for over a decade now. Back in 2010, Emmer was Minnesota’s Republican nominee for governor. He became known nationally as one of the ur–Tea Party candidates defining the backlash to Barack Obama’s presidency and to the RINOs who had long been the face of the GOP. As I wrote then of Emmer’s time ahead of his gubernatorial run:

He “embodied a lot of the positive attributes of Trump before Trump was cool,” said Marty Seifert, the former Republican minority leader when Emmer was in the state legislature. “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.” …

His tenure was defined by pushing far-right policy: proposals that Minnesota should chemically castrate sex offenders, impose strict voter ID laws, and outlaw abortion in all instances (as well as proposals that would also potentially outlaw certain forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization). He questioned evolution and was one of the loudest, most influential opponents of same-sex marriage. And despite two earlier DUI infractions, Emmer put forth bills to lessen penalties for drunk driving, which became fodder for opponents in later political campaigns.

Another of Emmer’s obsessions was pushing cockamamie ways that Minnesota could nullify federal laws. He was one of three co-authors of a 2010 proposal for a state constitutional amendment that would have required the governor and a two-thirds vote by legislators to approve a federal law before it could be enforced in Minnesota.

But unlike other Tea Partiers who rode the backlash against Democrats to great success in 2010, Emmer lost his campaign. He slunk away for a few years—serving time working for anti-gay-marriage groups and as a morning radio shock jock—before Michele Bachmann retired from her deep-red seat and Emmer took her place. As I wrote for Mother Jones back in 2014, Emmer had “closely replicated the Bachmann model” and was the heir apparent to carry on her pugilistic style of politics in Washington. But when he came to the Capitol, he largely receded from the limelight, sticking to his conservative views but focusing on rising through the ranks behind the scenes, eventually chairing the NRCC in 2020—when Republicans actually won more seats than Democrats despite Donald Trump losing to Joe Biden—and repeating that role in the promising 2022 cycle. “When [he was] first elected to the Minnesota House, compromise was probably not part of his M.O.,” former Minnesota House Speaker Steve Sviggum told me. “I think today there’s much more awareness of cooperation and compromise, while still having extremely conservative values.”

But between the surprising outcome of the midterms and that sense of seeking compromise, Emmer almost lost his leadership role. He reportedly earned the ire of Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson, and The National Review wrote a scathing article denouncing his whip bid this week, arguing, “He deserves the lion’s share of the blame for the GOP’s dismal showing in the House.” Still, he held on, but trying to convince an unruly cohort of extremists that he helped secure reelection will be no easy task in the months ahead.

To learn more about who Emmer is—from how he peddled election denial ahead of January 6 to his time as a “hothead” in the Minnesota state legislature—read the full profile here.

Republicans Nominate Trump Favorite Kevin McCarthy as Next House Speaker

House Republicans voted 188–31 for the California representative.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy, a major ally of former President Donald Trump, was nominated to be the next speaker of the House on Tuesday.

House Republicans voted 188–31 for the California representative, who beat farther-right Arizona Representative Andy Biggs for the nomination.

The Republican Party is one seat away from taking control of the House of Representatives. If they do, then the full chamber will vote on whether McCarthy should be speaker on January 3, once the new Congress is sworn in. McCarthy will need a total of 218 votes to win the spot.

But it’s not clear if he’ll have all those votes. His own party is not unified behind him, despite Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene urging her colleagues to back him. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz told reporters McCarthy “does not have 218 votes to become speaker. I don’t think he has 200.”

Gaetz had previously said he would back Representative Jim Jordan for speakership, not McCarthy. Dozens of conservative leaders on Monday penned a letter calling for a delay in the House leadership vote until next month.

While 31 votes against McCarthy’s nomination isn’t a small number, it also isn’t totally out of the norm. In November 2018, 32 Democrats voted against nominating Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.

McCarthy, the House minority leader, has made no secret of his ambitions to move up in the chamber—and he’s starting to get a little desperate. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the minority leader’s team had made several calls to Texas Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar asking him to switch parties, giving McCarthy an extra vote.

Cuellar turned them down, the Journal said, citing anonymous sources familiar with the calls.

Is Matt Gaetz Trying to Sneak His Way Out of Trump’s 2024 Announcement?

Gaetz said he couldn’t make it because the weather wasn’t looking good for his flight. But planes seem to be flying just fine.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Representative Matt Gaetz was slated to join Donald Trump for the former president’s third presidential announcement in Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night. But the Florida representative might be trying to wiggle out of it. Apparently, inclement weather is inhibiting his flight.

However, as New York Times reporter Jane Coaston pointed out, flights from Washington D.C. to Florida are all running just fine—regardless of which airport one may be flying from.

Gaetz, a proudly self-declared MAGA Republican, was among those challenging Kevin McCarthy’s House leadership. Trump, for his part, supported McCarthy’s nomination as House speaker.

But there has otherwise been no clear indicator of Gaetz also defecting from Trump. Last week, the representative spoke out amid calls from Republicans to ditch Trump following a disappointing midterm election, insisting that “only Trump can be trusted to enact the ‘America First’ agenda he ran on in 2016. We won’t accept any imitation.”

However, much has changed since even last week. As more elections have been declared, Trump’s mark has continued to decay—over 30 candidates he endorsed have lost, including far-right stars like Kari Lake and Blake Masters.

Meanwhile, even more Republicans have spoken out against Trumpism—from New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and outgoing Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis and Trump’s former vice president (and potential competitor) Mike Pence.

Given the building pressure, it would not be out of the question for Gaetz to have second thoughts—or at least to cover his bases by ensuring he wasn’t in the photos for Trump’s announcement.

While Tuesday’s weather still welcomes Gaetz to safely fly down for Trump’s announcement, he may be navigating the thorny broader political climate instead by choosing not to.

Judge Overturns Georgia’s “Plainly Unconstitutional” Six-Week Abortion Ban

Most people don’t know they’re pregnant at only six weeks.

Sign reads: "The Land of the free? Choice = freedom"
Megan Varner/Getty Images

A judge in Georgia on Tuesday overturned the state’s ban on abortions after six weeks, a major win for women and gender minorities.

Georgia had passed a law in 2019 banning abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is as early as six weeks—before many people even know they are pregnant—but the legislation only took effect after the Supreme Court rolled back the nationwide right to the procedure in June.

A group of doctors and advocacy groups sued Georgia in July, seeking to strike down the law. Judge Robert McBurney sided with them Tuesday, ruling that the six-week ban “did not become the law of Georgia when it was enacted and it is not the law of Georgia now.”

Not only are two sections of the law “plainly unconstitutional,” but “there is no legal basis” for the statewide ban at all, he said in his ruling.

A spokesperson for the Georgia attorney general told the AP that they plan to appeal the decision.

The ruling is a huge win for people in Georgia, where Republican Brian Kemp was just reelected governor. Kemp had refused to say during a debate against Stacey Abrams whether he would sign more abortion restrictions into law if reelected.

Abrams had slammed his nonanswer, warning that “women are in danger” under this governor.

Her accusation was backed up by health professionals, who warned in a study that if abortion is banned in Georgia, maternal mortality will increase 29 percent. If the procedure is banned nationwide, then maternal mortality will rise 24 percent overall.

Maternal mortality among Black people nationwide will skyrocket 39 percent.

The United States already has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, and Georgia has the second-highest rate in the country, of 48.4 deaths out of 100,000 births, according to the World Population Review.

Steven Crowder and Others Urge Election Denialist Kari Lake Not to Concede

Conspiracy theories abound after Kari Lake lost the Arizona governor race.

Jon Cherry/Bloomberg/Getty Images

“I guess today, we are all ‘election deniers,’” tweeted right-wing commentator Steven Crowder Tuesday morning. Crowder is among those stirring conspiracy about Kari Lake’s loss to Katie Hobbs in Arizona’s gubernatorial race. “DO NOT CONCEDE,” Crowder insisted.

Before the election, Crowder suggested a peaceful transfer of power was overrated. And after the election, Crowder switched to peddling conspiracy theories to over 80,000 Rumble viewers on his program Louder With Crowder.

One of these theories involved polling locations in Maricopa County, where ballot printers were not producing ink dark enough to be read by tabulators. But in reality, the county’s election officials—largely Republicans—had numerous solutions in place so all votes could be soundly counted.

Crowder and his panel also couldn’t believe that longtime Arizona Republican and incumbent Treasurer Kimberly Yee won more votes than inflammatory John McCain–slamming Kari Lake. The panel almost approached some self-awareness on that notion.

“We’re spending a lot of our time right now thinking, ‘Did we get cheated, did we really lose?’” panelist Gerald Morgan Jr. said. “I’m spending most of my time on this instead of going, ‘OK, well hey, we lost, why did we lose? Was it because Kari Lake took a giant steaming dump on John McCain and maybe she played better nationally than she played in Arizona?’ OK, maybe. I highly doubt it.”

Crowder and company have not been alone in sowing distrust in Kari Lake’s lost election. Former President Donald Trump posted on Truth Social that “they just took the election away from Kari Lake.”

Right-wing commentator Todd Starnes echoed Crowder’s call:

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell alleged “computer manipulation:”

The list goes on. These voices all fall in line behind Lake herself, who has spent a good majority of her campaign sowing conspiracy and distrust in elections (as if not only trying to curry favor with Trump but to prepare for her own loss the whole time).

After losing, Lake took to Twitter, showing she had no intention of conceding for the time being:

It’s not shocking that Lake, whose campaign has largely been about denying truth, has yet to concede. But nearly every other big-ticket election denialist who has run and lost thus far has conceded.

Online commentators may try to keep Lake’s false hope alive, but it won’t be enough. Congressional Republicans now are largely occupied with picking new leadership and navigating a dangerously slim House majority. They, just like most of the country and like Arizona voters, are moving on from Lake—whether right-wing commentators believe it or not.

Who Is Andy Biggs? More on the Man Challenging McCarthy for House Speaker

The far-right lawmaker from Arizona is a big supporter of Donald Trump.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Arizona Representative Andy Biggs intends to challenge Kevin McCarthy for speaker of the house.

The far-right lawmaker announced his plan Monday night on Newsmax, as Republicans creep ever closer to controlling the House of Representatives.

Biggs was elected to Congress in 2016, when he campaigned on the goal of advancing then-President Donald Trump’s political agenda. He is a former chair of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative politicians on the Hill.

Biggs has been subpoenaed by the committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, but he has refused to cooperate. He has also made cruel jokes about the brutal attack on current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.

We’re going to show Nancy Pelosi the door very shortly,” he said during an election night event. “Don’t let it hit you on the backside, Nancy. She’s losing the gavel but finding the hammer.”

McCarthy, the House minority leader, has made no secret of his ambitions to move up in the chamber. Despite the distinct lack of the promised “red wave” on election night, McCarthy was already campaigning to be speaker of the House.

But his party is clearly not unified behind him. Dozens of conservative leaders on Monday penned a letter calling for a delay in the House leadership vote until next month.

And although far-right Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has urged her colleagues to back McCarthy, Biggs is not the only challenger he will face. Representative Steve Scalise is also running to be majority leader. Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz has said he backs Jim Jordan for House speaker, and Virginia Representative Bob Good also spoke out against McCarthy.

McCarthy seems to be getting desperate. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the minority leader’s team had made several calls to Texas Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar asking him to switch parties, giving McCarthy an extra vote.

Cuellar turned them down, the Journal said, citing anonymous sources familiar with the calls.

Liz Cheney and Meghan McCain Are Straight Up Trolling Kari Lake

Kari Lake lost the Arizona governor race after repeatedly attacking Cheney and McCain Republicans.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

It looks like the potshots Kari Lake took on the campaign trail are coming back to bite her.

People including Representative Liz Cheney and Meghan McCain, both of whom Lake insulted while running for Arizona governor, celebrated the MAGA Republican’s loss Tuesday.

On the campaign trail, Lake had embraced conspiracy theories and bashed both Cheney and McCain’s father, John McCain. When Cheney released an attack ad against Lake, the former Phoenix news anchor mockingly thanked her for the “anti-endorsement.”

Lake had also called late Arizona Senator John McCain a “loser” and boasted after winning the primary that she and her supporters “drove a stake through the heart of the McCain machine.” At one of her final rallies before Election Day, she said if there were any McCain supporters present, they should “get the hell out.”

And then she lost Monday night to Democrat Katie Hobbs.

“Beautiful morning to all of you,” Meghan McCain tweeted Tuesday, sharing a link to a National Review article titled “McCain Republicans Vote, Too.”

She also posted a photo of her father and Lake the night before.

Cheney retweeted Lake’s thank you statement and said, “You’re welcome.”

Although the gubernatorial race had come down to the wire, Hobbs had maintained a steady lead over Lake during the entire weeklong vote-counting process.

MSNBC reporter Vaughn Hillyard, who covered Lake for the past 18 months, was clear on why she lost.

Lake “predicated her campaign on trying to sell” Donald Trump’s conspiracy that he really won the 2020 election, Hillyard said, pointing out that Arizona has “rejected Trumpism” for the past three election cycles.

She had campaigned with major Trump allies such as Steve Bannon, and promoted Trumpist messages including white supremacy and attacking election officials. And then she—and a slew of other Trump-backed candidates—lost big on election night.

Lake “was the latest one to fall, essentially making it a clean sweep,” Hillyard said. “And now Donald Trump is going to go and try to run on the very message that all these people lost on.”

Nearly Every Republican Tulsi Gabbard Endorsed Lost the Election

Since leaving the Democratic Party, Gabbard endorsed 13 Republican candidates. Ten lost.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

On October 11, Tulsi Gabbard proudly announced her departure from the Democratic Party. Calling on “fellow common sense independent-minded Democrats” to join her, Gabbard wasted no time on her new path, endorsing 13 Republicans before the midterm elections.

Many of the races were high-stakes. Among Gabbard’s endorsements were election denialists and conspiracy theorists.

Ten out of the 13 candidates she endorsed went on to lose their election.

Here is a full list of her failed endorsements:


  • John Gibbs, Michigan’s 3rd district
  • Tom Barrett, Michigan’s 7th district
  • Joe Kent, Washington’s 3rd district


  • Blake Masters, Arizona
  • Adam Laxalt, Nevada
  • Don Bolduc, New Hampshire


  • Kari Lake, Arizona
  • Darren Bailey, Illinois
  • Tudor Dixon, Michigan
  • Lee Zeldin, New York

Only three candidates she endorsed won the election: J.D. Vance for Ohio senator, Mike Lee for Utah senator, and Kristi Noem for South Dakota governor.

Gabbard’s shift to the right is not surprising. Beyond appearing at CPAC this year, she has found a home in right-wing media for some time. There, she has focused less on bringing conservatives closer to her and more on bringing herself closer to them—criticizing the impeachment inquiry into former President Donald Trump as “partisan,” complaining about “open borders,” and even filling in for Tucker Carlson on his show.

Though Gabbard’s endorsements have largely failed, her efforts are paying dividends for her own self-interest. On Monday, MAGA Republican Matt Gaetz floated Gabbard as a potential speaker of the House candidate. That same day, Gabbard officially signed a deal with Fox News to join the network as a paid contributor. And in the evening, Gabbard once again hosted Carlson’s program.

If Gabbard expected to coast into the GOP on a red wave, one bolstered by her “free-thinking” endorsements, she might be disappointed with the results. She’s not alone, of course. Donald Trump has an even longer list of failed endorsements. Now both seek to fail upward—Gabbard, as she becomes a mainstay of the right-wing media sphere, and Trump, who is expected to soon announce his third consecutive bid for the presidency.

Katie Hobbs Wins Arizona Governor Race, Beats MAGA Republican Kari Lake

Democrat Katie Hobbs prevented Kari Lake, an election denier, from taking the governor’s seat.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Democrat Katie Hobbs was elected Arizona governor Monday in a tight race against mega MAGA Republican Kari Lake, according to a projection from NBC News.

Hobbs maintained a razor-thin lead over Lake, winning with 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent, with 97 percent reporting.

Although gubernatorial races do not normally garner much national attention, the Arizona race has been a nail-biter from start to finish. Arizona has become a crucial swing state after surprisingly going for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Then-Governor Doug Ducey certified the vote results, but Arizona has been plagued with election falsehoods since.

During early voting, the state reported multiple cases of voter intimidation as armed self-appointed poll watchers turned up at ballot boxes. On Election Day, some of the state’s ballot tabulators malfunctioned, leading many Republicans to misleadingly cry foul.

Lake is one such election denier. Backed by Donald Trump, she embraced conspiracy theories throughout her campaign, such as his insistence the 2020 election was stolen, and would not commit to accepting the results if she lost her own election.

On Election Day, as reports of tabulator issues came out, she claimed Democrats were trying to steal the election and told her supporters not to change polling stations because doing so would make their ballots “likely not count”—a claim reporters immediately debunked.

Counting Arizona ballots stretched for almost a week, before the race was finally called for Hobbs.

Hobbs, a former social worker, struck a much softer-spoken figure on the campaign trail compared to Lake. The Democrat and Arizona secretary of state rose to national prominence when she helped certify the 2020 election results for Biden.

Her first foray into politics was volunteering for one of Kyrsten Sinema’s state races. The senator was notably absent from stumping for Hobbs, but former President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail for her.

Hobbs has outperformed expectations and managed to keep a lead over Lake, even if that margin had narrowed by Monday.

Gallego Says Sinema Did Nothing to Help Arizona Democrats, “Only Cares About Herself”

The Arizona congressman—and potential Sinema challenger—took the senator to task for her lackluster support for Democrats.

Kyrsten Sinema
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego is going after Senator Kyrsten Sinema for being “nowhere to be found” leading up to the midterm elections.

“You did not see [Sinema] at one public event for anybody,” Gallego said Sunday on MSNBC. “And when we have these races that are really in the mix right now, she could have been a very good surrogate to help out a lot of our candidates. And she did nothing, because she only cares about herself.”

On November 9, the day after the election, Sinema tweeted: “Every vote counted, every voice heard. That’s how our democracy works. It may take some time for the results to be finalized, so in the meantime, let’s stay patient. Democracy is always worth the wait.”

Gallego responded, writing, “Thanks for all your help this year. 🙃”

This is not the first time Gallego has gone after Sinema. In January, he tweeted that Sinema and Manchin “care more about arcane Senate rules than protecting your vote,” referring to the pair’s opposition to eliminating the filibuster.

In April, Gallego predicted Sinema would not spend much time stumping for Arizona Democrats. “She doesn’t care about the Democratic movement. She doesn’t care about working-class people,” he said. “She’s not going to be out there with Mark [Kelly]. She’s not going to be out there with our gubernatorial nominee. It’s not her nature.”

Then in July, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Gallego tweeted at Sinema, asking her to have a town hall and explain her opposition to forgoing the filibuster in order to codify the right to abortion. Later that month, Gallego’s campaign fundraised on Facebook, teasing a potential primary challenge against Sinema in 2024.

“Many people are asking Ruben if he will run against Senator Kyrsten Sinema,” the post read. “We know many of you hope he does and he appreciates that fact. That’s one of the reasons he is asking you to contribute to his campaign today. Because if he is going to run against her, he’ll need to win his re-election campaign this November and build a strong grassroots movement.”

“Anything he doesn’t spend in 2022, he can use in 2024 … whatever he decides,” the post finished.

In September, less than two months before Election Day, Gallego alleged that Sinema “would prefer the Dems lose control of the Senate and House.” This, in response to Sinema predicting that, since government control periodically switches, it’s “likely to change again in just a few weeks.”

Five days before the election, former President Barack Obama visited Phoenix to rally support for the state’s Democrats. Sinema was notably absent—not even to show support for Katie Hobbs, whose first foray in politics was volunteering for one of Sinema’s state legislative races.

If not for the effort of Gallego and other Democratic groups, Sinema’s passivity was almost self-fulfilling. Nearly one week after Election Day, two Arizona House races—split by just hundreds of votes—and the extremely consequential gubernatorial race featuring Kari Lake are all yet to be called.