(Bloomberg) -- Representative Tom Emmer dropped his campaign for House speaker Tuesday after criticism from Donald Trump, becoming the third Republican nominee for the leadership post to be dragged down by seething divisions within the party.
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Republicans quickly opened a new contest for the nomination, with a closed-door candidate forum that kicked off Tuesday evening. Aides brought in pasta for lawmakers, a sign they anticipated a lengthy meeting.
The party plans to start voting on new nominees at 8 p.m. Washington time.
Emmer, a Minnesota Republican, decided to end his bid shortly after an earlier closed-door session with Republican lawmakers, according to two people familiar with his thinking. He left the meeting and jumped into a black SUV without answering reporters’ questions.
While the party tried to figure out next steps, Emmer sat in a Capitol office, smoking a cigar.
Five Republicans are now competing for the nomination, all Southerners who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results. Emmer’s frosty relationship with Trump traces back to his vote for certifying Joe Biden’s victory.
The candidates include Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Byron Donalds of Florida, who lost to Emmer in the previous nomination contest and are more conservative than him. Mark Green of Tennessee, Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and Roger Williams of Texas also launched bids, according to a statement from the Republican conference.
Representative Kevin Hern of Oklahoma had planned to run again but later threw his support behind Johnson, who emerged as an early frontrunner. The Louisiana congressman had been the runner-up to Emmer in the previous nominating contest.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination, on Tuesday called Emmer a “Globalist RINO” — short for “Republican in Name Only” — and said on Truth Social his election as speaker would be a “tragic mistake.”
“I think this is good,” Trump ally Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said of Emmer’s decision to withdraw. “Here’s what’s going on: The GOP conference is changing.”
Later Tuesday, Emmer deflected when asked if Trump had been decisive in his decision to bow out. “I made my decision based on my relationship with the conference,” he told reporters.
Emmer, who lasted as the speaker nominee for slightly more than four hours, said he would support the party’s nominee but isn’t endorsing any of the current candidates.
Arkansas Republican Steve Womack remarked that “I think it is apparent to the American people that the GOP conference is hopelessly divided.”
The latest twist in the three-week saga to choose a speaker threatens to prolong a leadership vacuum that has prevented action on emergency aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, and on funding to head off an impending mid-November US government shutdown.
Emmer, currently House Republicans’ third-ranking party leader, also voted last year to codify federal protections for same-sex marriage, which prompted some conservative activists to campaign against his speaker bid.
His nomination marked Republicans’ third attempt to fill a leadership vacancy that has paralyzed lawmakers since Kevin McCarthy’s Oct. 3 ouster from the job.
Opposition from just five of the 221 House Republicans can prevent election of a party nominee as speaker, unless the nominee makes a deal with Democrats — a step the GOP has been unwilling to take so far.
The party’s two previous nominees, second-ranking party leader Steve Scalise and hardline Trump loyalist Jim Jordan, both failed to muster enough Republican support to win a needed majority for election by the full House.
--With assistance from Andre Tartar.
(Updates with Emmer quotes, in 11th and 12th paragraphs)
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