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If you’re a fan of the Duggar clan, you’re aware that family patriarch Jim Bob is a man with a lot of irons in the fire.

These days, reality TV may be the father of 19’s most lucrative venture (as well as the one that seems to take up most of his time), but Jim Bob was feeding a whole lot of mouths long before he became famous.

Jim Bob Duggar Eye Roll
Photo via TLC

As you might expect with a family that big, he learned early on that he would need to employ both his wits and his work ethic if he was to be able to meet the needs of his massive family.

It helps that Jim Bob is a man of many skill sets.

He started out as a real estate agent, and then apparently decided that that notoriously smarmy and competitive field wasn’t smarmy and competitive enough.

Jim Bob entered the political arena in 1999, running a successful campaign for a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he served until 2002.

That same year, the Republican launched an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate, getting trounced by Senator Tim Hutchinson, who more than tripled Duggar’s vote tally.

Michelle and Jim Bob: 2004
Photo via TLC

His next move was a run for the Arkansas State Senate.

The always civically engaged Jim Bob lost again (this time, by a much narrower margin), and like that, his short-lived political career had come to an end.

By this time, Jim Bob and wife Michelle had 16 mouths to feed, which could have been a cause for concern if fortune hadn’t smiled on them.

The sheer outlandish size of their brood, coupled with their traditional, yet unconventional lifestyle, attracted the attention of reality TV producers.

In 2008, Jim Bob and Michelle made their first national television appearance in a televised one-hour special that aired on TLC and Discovery Health.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Jim Bob and Michelle Today
Photo via TLC

The audience response was such that the Duggars (who soon had another baby) were granted a full series, then titled 17 Kids and Counting.

It was later renamed 18, and then 19 Kids and Counting as Jim Bob and Michelle continued reproducing (their 20th child was just adopted).

As their profile has grown, so has their notoriety, but the Duggars remain on TV despite non-stop scandals and even revelations of criminal activity.

Even a revolting child molestation scandal involving their first-born child wasn’t enough to turn away the family’s most devoted viewers.

As a result of his family’s surprising ongoing popularity, Jim Bob Duggar’s net worth has been estimated at $3.6 million.

But for all the wealth he’s accumulated, the 51-year-old Jim Bob’s greatest aspiration – real political clout – has remained elusive.

Michelle, Jim Bob Duggar Photo
Photo via Instagram

The Duggars’ relationship with Mike Huckabee has been a source of controversy over the years.

The only race in which they openly endorsed him – the 2008 Republican presidential primary – was an embarrassment for the former Arkansas governor.

Since then, the Duggars have endorsed two other candidates (Rick Santorum in the 2012 GOP presidential primary and Ken Cuccinelli for Governor of Virginia in 2013), both of whom were defeated soundly.

Since then, the Duggars seem to have taken the hint.

While they remain active in their endorsement of certain far-right political agendas, they’ve refrained from further candidate endorsements.

As far as his clout within Tontitown goes, compared with the net worths of other Duggar men, Jim Bob is clearly still top dog.

For how long, though?

Some observers believe his time as the family’s chief breadwinner may soon come to a close, thanks in part to his offspring’s popularity.

And, to be fair, his own status as a polarizing figure.

Fans were upset when Jim Bob and Michelle appeared on Counting On last season after agreeing to keep their distance from the show.

Due to their involvement in covering up the Josh Duggar sex scandals, the parents became radioactive and their roles have been lessened.

It’s one of many signs that Duggar fans are hoping to forget about the older generation (and Josh) and focus on 18 of Jim Bob and Michelle’s 19 kids.

But you can be certain that no matter what happens, Jim Bob will still be pulling the strings and lining his pockets behind the scenes.