Odds Favor Pelosi Keeping Speakership: Campaign Strategists

November 10, 2020 Updated: November 11, 2020

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could face a challenger but will likely keep the Speaker’s gavel when leaders for the 117th Congress are selected, according to Democrat and Republican campaign strategists.

“Nancy Pelosi is about 10 votes away from losing the gavel, but she will keep it. There will be a challenger or two, but for all her faults, Pelosi is a master when it comes to whipping votes in the House,” Democratic strategist Robin Biro told The Epoch Times on Nov. 10.

“We need her in that position because the numbers are tighter now and, realistically speaking, we need her to help rally those votes,” said Biro, a regional director for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and a former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger who served two tours in Afghanistan.

“I’d be shocked if she’s not challenged for speaker,” Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told The Epoch Times on Nov. 10. “If she stays, she will have a five- to eight-seat margin with very little room for error.”

Mackowiak, president of the D.C.- and Austin, Texas-based Potomac Strategy Group, was formerly communications director for Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas and Conrad Burns of Montana.

Whether or not Pelosi is reelected Speaker, the House of Representatives that takes office in January will be different in multiple ways from its predecessor, which she ruled with an iron hand.

She announced Nov. 3 her intent to seek a fourth term as Speaker, and House Democrats officially begin the process of electing their new leaders on Nov. 18.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee won’t be led by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who announced on Nov. 9 that she wouldn’t seek another two years in the role.

While final results for all 435 contested seats in the lower chamber aren’t yet available, Republicans gained at least six seats in the House, according to RealClear Politics, and could end up with as many as 10, contrary to pre-election optimism among Democrats that they would add perhaps as many as 15 seats.

“I think the far left of the House Democratic caucus will run somebody against Speaker Pelosi,” Liberty Government Affairs President Brian Darling, a Republican strategist, told The Epoch Times on Nov. 10.

“She should not be rewarded for a failed election where the Democrats did so well against President Trump, yet almost lost control of the House. Democrats ran a terrible campaign to convince the American people to vote for Democrats’ continued control of the House,” Darling said.

Centrist Democrats

The election setbacks were especially hard on the already shrinking ranks of centrist House Democrats. Chief among them was House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who lost his seat after serving 30 years in the lower chamber.

Other casualties included three centrists who flipped Republican-held seats in the 2018 election: Reps. Kendra Horn in Oklahoma, Max Rose in New York, and Joe Cunningham in South Carolina.

Other Democrats who lost included Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, and Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, both in Florida. The Florida Democrats lost to Hispanic Republicans who branded them as “socialists” and too soft on the dictatorial regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.

Some of the surviving Democrat moderates are being rather vocal, at least among colleagues, about their dissatisfaction, most notably Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.

The former CIA analyst, who defeated Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in the 2018 contest, told colleagues during an emotion-filled caucus call two days after the election that the losses were due to Democrats going too far to the left.

“We have to commit to not saying the words ‘defund the police’ ever again,” Spanberger said during the phone call. “We need to not ever use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again. It does matter, and we have lost good members because of that.”

Republicans React

Things will be different on the Republican side of the House as well.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, who won his sixth term Nov. 3 with the highest vote percentage (67 percent) of his career, told The Epoch Times on Nov. 10 that he’s elated by the GOP’s incoming freshman class.

“The good news about our incoming freshman class is that they accomplished what we as Republicans have been trying to do for decades, getting more diversity, getting a great depth of talent, in several states and regions,” he said.

Fleischmann said he expects Pelosi to have a tougher time keeping members of the House Democratic caucus in line, and for Republicans to be able to get more done on their side.

“They will be in the majority, but their majority will not be as large, and the more progressive wing of Pelosi’s party will be a lot harder to appease now because they grew as they eroded, either in their primaries or in their generals, their moderate members,” he said.

“Will she get a challenge, I don’t know. Does she have problems in her conference? Absolutely, she’s got problems from her middle and from her left.”

Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), who was reelected against token opposition with 94 percent of the vote, told The Epoch Times the election results “help us certainly in our negotiations with Speaker Pelosi. I don’t see her being unseated, because at this point, nobody has started a charge against her, and it would be a long shot if for no other reason than she raises so much money for them.”

Fleischmann and Dunn agreed that the Democrats’ reduced ranks will pressure Pelosi to reach out to Republicans, which she’s not done in recent years as Speaker, in order to win votes that wouldn’t have been difficult in the previous Congress.

“Realistically, the way this works, when you’ve got a smaller conference, you’ve got to compromise more. Otherwise, you get in trouble,” Dunn said.

But at the same time, there will be more pressure on Pelosi from the more fervently left-leaning Democratic majority to not compromise with Republicans.

Fleischmann said: “Bingo. A decade ago, when she was Speaker and turned it over to [successor Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2011], she had a conference where she had much more control because they were more inclined to be more centrist.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc