House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked Friday about the possibility of Trump becoming Speaker of the House if Republicans win control of the chamber in the 2022 midterms.... "You know, I've talked to President Trump many times, he tells me he wants to be speaker, and I think he should be president," McCarthy told Fox News.
It wasn't long before McCarthy's office clarified that he'd misspoken during the interview: McCarthy meant that Trump supported the California congressman's bid for Speaker, not that the former president wanted the job for himself.
That said, the question that prompted the confusion didn't come out of nowhere.
Steve Bannon, who used to advise the former president, seemed to get the ball rolling on this, recently touting a scenario in which House Republicans take back the majority next year and support Trump as their new Speaker. (Under House rules, members can elect anyone as Speaker, not just sitting members.) Under the fanciful hypothetical, once Trump held the gavel, he could start exacting revenge against those who defeated him, launching investigations into imagined scandals, and initiating impeachment proceedings against President Biden and Vice President Harris.
Soon after, Trump was asked about the idea and replied, "That's so interesting.... Yeah, you know it's very interesting.... It's very interesting."
Chatter in conservative media soon followed.
At a certain level, it would be a drama worthy of Shakespeare if Kevin McCarthy, after offering Trump sycophantic support in the hopes of advancing his own personal ambitions, failed to get the job he wanted because Trump took it for himself.
But in all likelihood, the entire scheme is extraordinarily unlikely. For one thing, there's no guarantee the GOP will take back the House. For another, if Republicans succeed in claiming a majority, it's impossible to imagine McCarthy voluntarily standing aside and giving up the position he's wanted for years.
It's also a relevant detail that there remains an anti-Trump faction within the GOP, and even if the former president sought the gig, he probably wouldn't have the votes to prevail.
For his part, Bannon continues to talk up increasingly weird scenarios, including one in which Trump would agree to only serve as Speaker for 100 days, during which time he'd set his retributive plans in motion, before passing the baton to McCarthy and preparing for 2024.
The whole idea is clearly bizarre, but there is a broader relevance to this: Assorted partisans have largely assumed that 2022 would be the first election cycle since 2014 in which Trump wasn't directly relevant. The louder the conversation about him possibly eyeing the Speaker's gavel, the more it'll seem as if Trump is effectively on the midterm ballot.
Update: In his newest interview, Trump was asked again about his possible interest in running for Speaker. “Well, I’ve heard the talk and it’s getting more and more," he said. "But it’s not something that I would’ve considered but it is certainly — there’s a lot of talk about it."