During the 2018 election campaign cycle, nearly 60 Democratic House candidates and incumbents said they would not vote for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to become speaker again if their party retakes control of the House.
Dozens of other Democratic candidates declined to give a definitive answer when asked if they supported making Pelosi speaker again.
Nevertheless, most analyst predicted she would take the speaker’s gavel in January if party control flips.
“I think there is a 10 percent chance she’s in trouble,” said Tom Del Beccaro, former chairman of the California Republican Party. “She is a prodigious fundraiser and will keep her leadership.”
As of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, with results still being counted, Democrats had gained three more seats than the 23 they needed to regain control of the House for the first time since 2010. (In the Senate, Republicans had picked up four seats–in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota–to increase their majority.)
Pelosi served as the first female speaker of the House for four years after Democrats captured the House of Representatives in 2006, until Republicans took it back in the 2010 midterm elections. But she has been an unpopular figure with moderates, and even many Democratic party progressives have called for new leadership.
Democrats can’t turn their back on Pelosi after a victory, said Bill Press, a former chairman of the California Democratic Party.
“I was by no means certain that Democrats would win back the House, but now that they have, you can take this to the bank: Nancy Pelosi will be the next speaker of the House,” Press told The Daily Signal. “And she deserves it. Nobody has worked harder. Nobody has raised more money—$34 million in the last period alone. Nobody deserves more credit for bringing the Democrats back to power.”
She will face some skepticism from members, but at least for now, she’s safe, Press said.
“Yes, there will be some grumbling,” he said. “There will be some demands for changes in rules of the House, which she will agree to. Pelosi has already agreed to serve—one term—as a ‘transitional speaker.’ But, in the end, politics is like baseball. You don’t win the World Series and fire your manager.”
The Democratic members who told their constituencies they wouldn’t vote for Pelosi do have an exit, said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.
“If she is challenged, that happens in a caucus vote, essentially a primary,” Kidd told The Daily Signal. “Once the majority in the caucus casts a vote, the Democrats will vote for her on the House floor. So, these Democrats will still be able to say they voted against Pelosi in the caucus, but they weren’t going to vote for a Republican for speaker on the floor. That’s how they will navigate that.”
Pelosi will also have a means to shore up the progressive base in her party.
“She has probably raised enough money going around the country to remain speaker,” Kidd said. “She will likely bring in deputies from the populist and progressive wing that is calling for more assertiveness.”
He added that Republicans will gleefully continue to use her as a target of their demonization.
“Pelosi has already been the foil, showing up in most Republican commercials, and she hasn’t been speaker for eight years. Being speaker would legitimize her position as a foil,” Kidd said.