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Tipsheet

It Appears the Democrats Have Their Person in Mind to Replace Nancy Pelosi

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In September, a CNN report revealed that even if Democrats did maintain control of the House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was not safe in her position. Since then, the chances of Republicans taking control of the body have become even more pronounced. It's been revealed that Democrats have also been discussing who will replace Pelosi. According to a Friday morning report from Jonathan Martin of POLITICO, that would be Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who currently chairs the House Democratic Caucus.

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The report details that Jeffries' campaign to be the Democratic leader next Congress are "all but-certain," especially given that he has support from Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the majority whip. Clyburn reiterated his support amidst speculation that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) would try for the role. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) might launch a campaign for speaker, which brings about the criticism Democrats have faced from their supporters that party leadership is full of old people. Both Pelosi and Clyburn are 82, and Hoyer is 83. Jeffries is 52.

As the report mentions:

Privately, a number of Democratic lawmakers said Jeffries is their best option as leader because he’s the rare member who’s proficient at both the outside and inside game, skilled enough to carry the party’s message on television but also attuned to his colleague’s needs and wants.

Jeffries’ ascent would be significant for a number of reasons. There’s his history-making status, a descendant of enslaved people leading his party in a building partly built by enslaved people.

...

It’s not just the symbolism of tapping a white man rather than elevating the first Black leader to succeed the first female speaker. It’s that Jeffries is poised to ascend with a pair of well-liked deputies, Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California, who together reflect the makeup of their party — a Black man, a white woman and a Latino.

Few Democrats more fully grasp the power of the party’s diversity than Clyburn, the man whose eleventh-hour endorsement helped revive President Biden’s campaign in the first primary state with a large share of Black voters.

The caucus’ commitment to diverse leaders is “what this country is all about,” he said.

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Pelosi, however, does not appear to have weighed in about her preference, and Schiff does indeed seem prepared to launch a campaign:

What [Pelosi's] not been able to do, though, is groom a successor. This deficiency is why some House Democrats believe Schiff suddenly began sounding out his colleagues earlier this year.

Pelosi’s lieutenants insist she’s not nudging her fellow Californian to take on Jeffries, but she has tried to find him a perch before. She lobbied California Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint Schiff state attorney general last year — and when the governor passed him over, Pelosi left Newsom a message expressing her disappointment in no uncertain terms.

To MSNBC-attuned Democratic activists and donors, Schiff may be the second best-known House Democrat and, after helping to lead two impeachment trials against Donald Trump, Pelosi’s de facto deputy.

But a cable television profile does not a leader make, at least not in the relationship-driven politics of congressional elections.

Schiff has helped himself by donating to his colleagues, raising or giving a combined $14 million to House candidates this election. But he is now playing catch-up with Jeffries, who has been building support since he was elected to the leadership following the 2018 election.

“He’s harvesting seeds Adam is just now planting,” said Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, whose own relationship with Jeffries stems from that post-2018 leadership race.

Like Phillips, Rep. Haley Stevens of Michigan was also first elected in the 2018 Democratic wave, and when she met with Jeffries over nachos in her suburban Detroit district last month, she told him up front that she was on board.

Another longer-serving lawmaker could not believe he had to inform Schiff of what should have been obvious. “The fact he didn’t know I was for Hakeem tells you how out of touch he is,” said this lawmaker. “I’m part of Hakeem’s whip operation.”

To Schiff’s detriment, it’s not only that he’s playing catch up, it’s that it’s obvious he’s playing catch up. More focused on raising his media profile than cultivating colleagues during the Trump years — and seen in the caucus as capable but aloof — his outreach has prompted some lawmakers to privately ridicule him for only texting them for the first time when he became interested in the leadership.

In private, Schiff has expressed confidence that the 42-member delegation of California Democrats could vault him into contention.

But that bloc is hardly unified around him. “Should there be a change in leadership I think Hakeem would be a strong, unifying leader,” said Rep. Ami Bera of California, who’s eyeing the DCCC chairmanship.

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Leading up to the midterm races, which Democrats are increasingly likely to lose, especially in the House, Jeffries has doubled down on criticizing "extreme MAGA Republicans." He, like other Democrats, has also focused heavily on the abortion issue. During a committee hearing that Townhall attended in July, he went on a pro-abortion rant during which he called pro-lifers "extreme" and the U.S. Supreme Court "illegitimate." This is despite the Democratic Party wanting abortion to be legal without any restrictions up until birth, paid for by taxpayer dollars. 

When it comes to Pelosi's future, earlier that morning, POLITICO published Jeremy B. White's piece regarding who could replace her when she does leave Congress. One name includes state Sen. Scott Wiener. Pelosi, as Leah highlighted in September, reportedly wants to serve as ambassador to Italy. 

Both articles were highlighted in POLITICO's Friday morning "Playbook."

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