Feb 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Turmoil surrounds Mike Johnson over alleged Senate endorsement

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) faced a rapid backlash Thursday over reports he was planning to get involved in the Montana GOP Senate primary.

Why it matters: Backing Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) would have put Johnson at odds with top Senate Republicans, who are counting on a strong candidate to oust Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in November.

  • "I don't know how you explain that one," Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told Punchbowl News of the rumored endorsement, first scooped by Punchbowl.
  • "I can confirm that upon reflection, the Speaker withdrew his endorsement largely based on the reality that Rosendale is the weaker candidate by far against Tester," Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) told Politico.

The other side: Johnson's team said the Louisiana Republican doesn't have plans to involve himself in the race.

  • "The Speaker has committed to sending a contribution to Congressman Rosendale, as he has for other House colleagues and friends, but he has not made any endorsements in Senate races," Team Johnson spokesman Greg Steele said in a statement.
  • A source close to Johnson said there was never a formal commitment for an endorsement, but the Louisiana Republican is "sympathetic and wanted to be supportive."

The bottom line: Senate GOP leadership have strong reservations about Rosendale — a conservative firebrand who helped lead the charge in the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

  • Party leaders have lined up behind Tim Sheehy, a businessman and former Navy SEAL, in the Montana primary.
  • Rosendale, who's expected to enter the race as soon as Friday, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
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