House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is being urged to not seek House speakership by The Sacramento Bee. SacBee’s editorial board implored Pelosi to eschew another speaker run because of her unpopularity.
This is much bigger than her. To retake control of the House, Democrats need to gain at least 23 seats in November. That’s no easy task. And it’s even more difficult now that Pelosi’s future has become a distracting campaign issue for Democrats in key swing districts, where they need moderate and even Republican votes to win.
So far, 45 Democratic nominees (including Andrew Janz, who is running against Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare) and 10 incumbents (including Rep. Linda Sanchez of Whittier) have publicly said they will not support Pelosi for speaker.
For their part, Republicans are running attack ads that feature Pelosi, as they have for years. And she is frequent target for Trump, who tweeted again on Aug. 10: “Democrats, please do not distance yourselves from Nancy Pelosi…She is trying very hard & has every right to take down the Democrat Party if she has veered too far left!”
What’s interesting is SacBee doesn’t mince words when discussing Pelosi’s foibles and the fact she gives off the air of a woman just looking to hold onto power.
Pelosi isn’t doing herself any favors by playing the victim. Asked during a Sunday interview about Democrats opposing her for speaker, she accused MSNBC of being on a “jag” against her. Better than most, she ought to know that’s getting precariously close to Trump calling any critical coverage “fake news.”
Pelosi says that while no one is indispensable, she is still the best person for the job. On Monday, her press office sent out a column in which Paul Krugman of The New York Times praised Pelosi as “by far the greatest speaker of modern times,” and questioned why she gets so little credit from the media for her accomplishments, which include the Affordable Care Act, and the stimulus package and financial reforms after Wall Street’s meltdown. If you’ll recall, similar statements were made about the eminently qualified Hillary Clinton – and we know how that turned out.
Pelosi and other party leaders are trying to get the message out that not only will Democrats oppose Trump and his culture of “corruption, cronyism and incompetence,” they are “for the people” and will push for better health care and more jobs. But the political reality is that she is not the most effective messenger.
They’re right in saying Pelosi isn’t the best messenger because there are times she comes off completely frazzled or just indignant whenever a reporter asks her a question. The discord in her party is real, and her attitude there is rather opaque.
There are people waiting in the wings to replace her. South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn is pretty open in his desire to be Speaker of the House – and not as a bridge from one generation of Democrats to the another (Clyburn, Pelosi, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer are all in their late 70s). It’s pretty doubtful Democrats would try to put Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez as a potential speaker candidate, but you never know!
Of course, any race for House Speaker would be a game of political popcorn (or maybe a Game of Political Thrones). McClatchy laid out just how fractious the fight could be between Clyburn and Hoyer.
Clyburn also would have to survive a contest against Hoyer, who has been laying the groundwork to be speaker for years — though his spokeswoman, Katie Grant, would say only that Hoyer currently is “focused on taking back the House and ensuring we have a Democratic majority in 2019.”
When Democrats were thrust back into the House’s minority in 2010, Clyburn and Hoyer were poised to compete for minority whip, one of only two minority party leadership positions at the time. When it became clear Clyburn could not beat Hoyer, the Columbia Democrat agreed to take on a newly created position of assistant Democratic leader in the House rather than force colleagues to vote on who should be the whip.
A leadership race between Clyburn and Hoyer could be ugly and divisive.
Clyburn and Hoyer both are well-liked by their colleagues. They both are steady fundraisers for congressional candidates and incumbents, and travel the country to campaign for fellow Democrats. Each man has a reputation of mentoring younger members.
“If we were all smart and strategic that race will never occur,” U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., a former Black Caucus chairman and a senior member of Hoyer’s whip team, said on Capitol Hill in July. “Nobody wants that to happen.”
But the stakes are higher now than they were eight years ago, and it’s less likely Clyburn would back away from the chance to be the first black speaker.
And you thought the potential threeway dance between Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise, and Kevin McCarthy would be fun.
All this talk about a Democrat fight over who gets the House gavel relies on the party actually winning elections in November. There’s no guarantee of a #bluewave happening – nor am I rooting for one either – despite generic polls showing Democrats have a lead. It just boils down to how voters feel this fall.
Either way, it’s still pretty interesting seeing a California paper suggest Pelosi should walk away from speakership.