House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) aggressively deflected questions about a burbling challenge to her dream of returning to the speakership on Thursday morning. But she made it clear she wasn’t going down without a fight.
When asked about Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) openly contemplating a run against her, Pelosi replied with a grin: “Come on in, the water’s warm.”
Pelosi is facing an insurrection from within her caucus among some moderates, younger members and Democrats from the heartland who are seeking to team up with some red-district freshmen to block her from the speakership. Fudge is the only Democrat who’s even dared publicly float her name as a possible challenge. Seventeen Democrats reportedly have signed onto a yet-to-be-released letter promising to vote against Pelosi on the House floor, roughly enough to potentially block her from the speakership. That could throw the newly minted Democratic majority into chaos on the first day of the new Congress.
Pelosi is working furiously behind the scenes to quell this insurrection.
Clearly not excited to take questions about the challenge during her weekly press conference, Pelosi approached them with mostly monosyllabic responses to a series of rapid-fire questions. When TPM asked a pair of questions about whether she would back primary challengers to safe-district Democrats who opposed her and what she was telling vulnerable freshmen who are hesitant to support her, Pelosi flippantly said “I always have” before moving on. After being passed a note by an aide, she came back to clarify that she meant she’d back members in tough races even if they didn’t support her.
“I’ve always supported, it doesn’t matter to me whether they support me,” she said.
And she was dismissive of the supposed list of foes that’s been publicly floated.
“Have you seen the letter?” she asked.
Pelosi has historically taken sides in intraparty battles, famously backing her ally Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-MI) over Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) when the two were drawn into the same district in 2002 (Dingell won) and often choosing sides to oust some longtime stalwarts in caucus chairman elections.
Her famous backroom political skills are a big reason most think she’ll still prevail in her fight for the speaker’s gavel, which faces a key test in party leadership votes on Nov. 28 before the crucial vote for speaker in early January where she needs a majority of House votes. But it’s increasingly clear this isn’t a slam dunk for her.