Just the Facts

Five Facts on Nancy Pelosi’s Bid for Speaker of the House

By Emma Petasis
August 10, 2018 | Blog

As midterm elections fast approach Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been the subject of criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.  In fact, many Democratic candidates have campaigned promising that, if elected, they would not support Pelosi’s bid for a leadership position. But Pelosi still has a good chance of maintaining her power in party leadership because of the way the respective parties elect their leaders.  Here are five facts on Nancy Pelosi’s bid for speaker of the House.

Many Democratic House candidates have announced they will not vote for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House if their party wins  the majority

In 2007 Nancy Pelosi made history when she became the first female speaker of the House.  With Democrats optimistic that they will be able to retake the majority this November, Rep. Pelosi has made it clear that she wants to hold the position once again.  However, she is currently facing strong opposition from within her own party —42 Democratic House nominees and nine incumbents have said they will not support her bid for re-election.

Many of the candidates and incumbents publicly opposing Pelosi are in Republican leaning districts

Being associated with Pelosi can be politically damaging for Democratic candidates.  In a recent poll 45% of registered voters indicated that they would be less likely to support a candidate who backs Pelosi.  In another poll, 91% of Republicans, 79% of Independents, and 51% of Democrats stated that they thought Pelosi should be replaced as leader of the Democratic Caucus.  Therefore, it is no surprise that Democrats such as Conor Lamb (D-PA) who are running for election in districts that President Trump won handily, are among those who have stated they would not vote for Pelosi if Democrats were to retake the House.

The opposition does not mean that Pelosi will not be elected speaker if Democrats retake the majority

In order to be elected speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi would first need to win her party’s nomination during the Democratic Caucus leadership elections, which are expected to be held shortly after Thanksgiving. In the caucus elections she would need to win a simple majority of all members present.  For example, if Democrats were to win 220 seats in the House — a slim majority — Pelosi would need 111 votes to become the Democratic nominee.  This means that the 42 House nominees — some of whom will not win their general elections —and the nine incumbents who oppose Pelosi, only make up roughly half of the votes needed to elect a different candidate.  However, if there are more than two candidates, it is likely that several rounds of voting would be required to get a majority, which would further complicate the process.

If Pelosi were to win the Democratic nomination for speaker it would be difficult for those who have publicly opposed her to continue to withhold their votes

Following caucus leadership elections, the next hurdle would be to win election by the full House at the beginning of the new session of Congress in January.  Just like the caucus elections, this vote also requires a simple majority (218 if all 435 members are present), and considering that the Democrats would be the majority party in this scenario, they would have the votes to elect their nominee.  However, this would also mean that most of the members that opposed Pelosi in the Caucus elections would have little choice but to vote for their party’s candidate.

It is unclear who will take leadership of the Democratic Party if Pelosi is unseated

Nancy Pelosi has been the Democratic leader in the House since 2002 and is the only Democratic speaker in the past 24 years.  However, as the current class of leadership ages and Pelosi faces mounting criticism, it is unclear who will take the mantle for the Democratic party moving forward.  Several potential candidates include Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and James Clyburn (D-SC), the number two and three Democrats in the House, but both are in their late 70s. Other, younger potential candidates include Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Cedric Richmond (D-LA)


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