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Could Nancy Pelosi actually lose?

On Monday, the "Never Nancy" crowd went public....

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 6:42 AM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 6:42 AM

On Monday, the "Never Nancy" crowd went public.

Sixteen House Democrats released a letter pledging not to vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker on the House floor, writing: "We promised to change the status quo and we intend to deliver on that promise."

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That 16 is not an insignificant number. Democrats have won 232 seats heading into the 116th Congress; of the three uncalled races, they lead in one of them. Assume, then, that Democrats enter next January with 233 seats. Pelosi would need 218 -- a simple majority of the House -- to be elected speaker. If those 16 vote against her -- and no Republican votes for her, Pelosi has 217 votes -- one short of what she needs. One important caveat: Ben McAdams of Utah signed the letter but is currently trailing in his bid to come to Congress. So at the moment, that's 15 "not Nancy" votes, which is one fewer than the anti-Pelosi forces need to keep her from a majority. (CNN has a great tracker on who is against Pelosi and who is thinking about being against her.)

What's fascinating about all of this is how truly unconcerned -- at least outwardly -- the would-be speaker seems. In a massive profile of Pelosi by Robert Draper that published on The New York Times website on Monday, Pelosi said this about those who have questioned her plan on how to lead the Democratic caucus next year:

"In terms of subpoena power, you have to handle it with care. Yes, on the left there is a Pound of Flesh Club, and they just want to do to them what they did to us." She shook her head emphatically. "That's not who we are. Go get somebody else if that's who you want."

That last sentence is particularly striking: "Go get somebody else if that's what you want."

It's also a nod to the fact that the anti-Pelosi crowd doesn't have a candidate to be, well, for. The only person considering the race is Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, although she has given no indication of where she is leaning. If Fudge says no, it's very hard to imagine any other Democrat challenging Pelosi.

But, her detractors would argue, that is beside the point. Because, unlike past failed insurrections against Pelosi, they aren't trying to beat her in the Democratic caucus vote -- where Pelosi will need only a simple majority of the 232 or 233 Democrats elected to the House. They are trying to beat her in the floor vote for speaker. And they're right that there is a difference there.

In 2010, following Democrats' loss of the House, North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler challenged Pelosi in the caucus vote. He got 43 votes; she got the other 150. In 2016, after Democrats failed to re-take the House majority, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan took on Pelosi. She won 134-63, a sign that there was a growing group willing to oppose Pelosi, but that that bloc wasn't nearly big enough to beat her.

This time around, the anti-Pelosi crowd is ceding the fact that they can't beat her in a caucus vote -- especially with no candidate. Instead, what they are trying to do is rob Pelosi of the simple majority she needs on the House floor, forcing her to either win over doubters on a second (or more) ballot or bow out. (A third option -- winning the speakership with the help of Republican votes, as President Donald Trump has suggested -- is a non-starter for Pelosi, who has said she will win with Democratic votes alone.)

We've seen something like this before -- except on the Republican side. After the 2014 election, conservatives opposed to John Boehner's speakership vowed they could keep him from a simple majority. All told, 25 Republicans voted against Boehner on the floor. That was less than the 29 defections he could afford. What's interesting about that vote is that six of the 25 Republicans voted "present" rather than vote for someone other than Boehner. Doing so lowered by six the number Boehner needed for a simple majority.

Which brings me back to Pelosi. It's not yet clear how many -- if any -- of her 16 detractors might consider voting "present" rather than voting for someone other than Pelosi. But if any did, it would reduce the number of votes Pelosi would need to win. Let's say, for example, six Democrats voted "present." That would lower her "win" number to 215. Get it? Good!

The Point: We've known for a while now that Pelosi's election as speaker isn't a cakewalk. The letter on Monday solidifies that sense -- and makes clear what a tight window Pelosi has to win. Still, if you look at her career, her history of winning close votes and the fact that no one is running against her at the moment, she still has to be considered the frontrunner.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
Huntington7661115
Gibson7102118
Montgomery7101123
Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
Whitley659660
Miami6595113
Putnam645085
Clinton627179
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Jasper613192
Jefferson5856105
Ripley557294
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Daviess5076117
Scott491580
Wells4836105
White478469
Greene4701101
Clay464662
Decatur4611110
Fayette452496
Jennings452067
LaGrange427491
Posey410044
Randolph3944107
Washington390956
Fountain375964
Fulton364874
Spencer362247
Starke355574
Owen353577
Sullivan348555
Orange331372
Jay331050
Rush309533
Carroll296239
Franklin292744
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Pike248644
Blackford222144
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Newton182452
Brown177550
Crawford169129
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Martin152120
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Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
Unassigned0595

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1717876

Reported Deaths: 26851
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1793291843
Cuyahoga1681592655
Hamilton1137721544
Montgomery805721405
Summit719531210
Lucas630291027
Butler56852814
Stark538501183
Lorain42330645
Warren35959417
Mahoning35798788
Lake32314501
Clermont31289369
Trumbull27344620
Delaware27206185
Licking26658344
Medina26042353
Fairfield24638287
Greene24378373
Clark22122390
Portage21257283
Richland21102342
Wood20128248
Allen18969326
Miami17338352
Columbiana16905335
Muskingum16726207
Wayne15740307
Tuscarawas14454362
Marion13332196
Ashtabula12732237
Erie12685199
Scioto12475188
Pickaway12260155
Ross11719226
Hancock11529175
Geauga10934179
Lawrence10653172
Belmont10459234
Huron9805159
Jefferson9632228
Union957375
Sandusky9348166
Seneca8917161
Knox8792176
Washington8688159
Darke8399181
Athens838197
Ashland8029152
Auglaize7943120
Shelby7511135
Defiance7358117
Crawford7281150
Fulton7215113
Brown7173116
Logan7003111
Guernsey696186
Mercer6933100
Highland6745120
Clinton6526106
Williams650099
Madison649790
Preble6274140
Putnam6244122
Jackson581597
Champaign580887
Perry566779
Coshocton5645108
Ottawa5641102
Morrow517765
Fayette494072
Hardin4895100
Gallia471478
Van Wert467895
Pike465578
Adams4592110
Henry434280
Hocking410193
Holmes3999141
Wyandot377675
Carroll366178
Paulding325451
Meigs305961
Monroe235961
Noble220349
Morgan216939
Harrison213153
Vinton187638
Unassigned06
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