Rep. Jim Jordan, the former college wrestling champion who represents the staunchly Republican Fourth Congressional District of Ohio, chairs the House Freedom Caucus.
If Republicans retain control of the House on Election Day as expected, the caucus will exert significant influence on the direction of next Congress. Some caucus members have even questioned the job security of Speaker Paul Ryan, whom Jordan declines to commit to backing for two more years in the House's top job.
Jordan sat down last week with CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood at Allen County Republican headquarters in western Ohio to discuss the election and the future of the GOP. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of their conversation.
HARWOOD: Assume Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, Democrats barely win the Senate, you guys still have the House. What message is the country sending?
JORDAN: Well, I don't think that is going to be the result. Donald Trump is trending up, she is trending down. I think he wins Ohio, and you know the old adage — you win Ohio, you've got a great chance at being president,
You have to think broader. I had a chance to sit down with [pollster] Pat Caddell a few months back. He said remember three numbers: 70, 60, 80. Seventy percent of the country thinks we are on the wrong track, 60 percent say I am better off than my parents but our children are likely to be worse off than me, and 80 percent think Washington is rigged against them.
The reason they think that is because it is true. We have to change that: dealing with this debt problem, not spending more than we take in. None of these families here get to do that. Why should Washington? Obamacare, getting rid of that — it's a complete disaster.
That is the message that is getting sent. We'd better take that to heart. That's why we started the Freedom Caucus.
HARWOOD: What you hear anti-Trump Republicans saying is that we need to follow the autopsy of 2012. We've got a party that is too insular, that is speaking to too few people and is not reaching out to African-Americans, Hispanics. It is it not adapting to the way the culture is changing on issues like gay marriage.
JORDAN: I disagree. I was at a Trump event just last week. You saw all kinds of folks there — African-Americans, Hispanics-Americans, 8,000 people crammed into this fairground arena.
HARWOOD: If you look at the polls, he is doing very poorly among African-Americans.
JORDAN: I'm telling you what I saw there. You saw people in camo[uflage]. You don't always see people in camo at a Republican event. When we opened this headquarters, a gentleman I hadn't seen before says, "I'm a union pipe-fitter voting for Donald Trump and I don't care what my union leadership says." I said, "Good for you dude, you sound like my Dad." My Dad was a union worker for General Motors. In 1980 he said "the heck with this, I'm voting for Ronald Reagan." You're seeing this dynamic. So I think we are bringing some new people into the party. That's a good thing.