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Falling Short: If Anti-Pelosi Democrats Stick Together, Pelosi Doesn't Have The Votes For Speaker

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has done what we all knew she was going to do if the Democrats retook the House: mount a bid for speaker (again). It’s a slam-dunk, right? Well, she isn’t exactly the real face of the party. Moreover, she’s incredibly unpopular, a figure that jacks up the GOP base (and fills its campaign coffers), and a whole host of new Democrats don’t support her bid in the leadership. The question is whether the new class sticks to their word. 


Pelosi did raise money for them, despite their explicit opposition to her reassuming the House speakership. In all likelihood, this leadership fight will end like the last Congress, where Pelosi was easily re-elected by Democrats to be minority leader. But for the sake of argument, we already have the stories that her speakership bid could hit obstacles and that it isn’t being warmly received by some top Democrats.

First, the polling shows that 56 percent of Democrats want someone else, but they still like her:

By 56% to 39%, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said Nancy Pelosi should be replaced as their leader in the House rather than kept in that role by being elected the next speaker. These views are similar among Democrats across the ideological spectrum.


Despite their lack of support for Pelosi as speaker, Democrats' opinions of Pelosi are more positive than negative. In Gallup's most recent update, from June, 48% said they have a favorable opinion of her and 31% an unfavorable one. Those figures indicate that some Democrats who have a positive opinion of Pelosi may nevertheless want her to be replaced as the party's leader.

Indeed, dozens of Democratic candidates, many of whom were elected on Tuesday, had vowed to support someone other than Pelosi as speaker should the party regain its majority status. Meanwhile, many incumbent Democrats have announced their intentions to back Pelosi as leader. The party will decide on its leader for the next Congress later this month, with the full House voting to elect the speaker once the new Congress convenes in January.


Not even former Vice President Joe Biden is enthused about another Speaker Pelosi era:

And, alas, there’s the new “red to blue” class of Democrats who ran on an anti-Pelosi platform (via NTK Network):

Thirty-seven Democrats in the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program disavowed Pelosi and said they would not support her for speaker. According to the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, 10 of those Democrats won Tuesday night, and another five are in races that are “too close to call.”

In total, that could give the anti-Pelosi coalition 15 members. According to Wasserman, Democrats “could wind up [with] only a dozen seats over 218.” If Democrats end up with just 230 House members, and 15 of those members have pledged to oppose Pelosi, she will be short of the 218 votes she needs to be speaker.

Now, the question is whether this crew can stick together. As newly elected members of Congress, I doubt they will remain firm. They want to do things, all freshmen do, and they’re probably not going to risk being declared persona non grata by the more senior members of their Congress by opposing Pelosi. On the other hand, if they do stick together—what an exciting January we have coming up. 


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