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Nancy Pelosi Is Running for Speaker, but With Trump’s Help?

California Democrat has little room for error in attempt to regain gavel

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds a press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, the day after the election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds a press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, the day after the election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After her prediction of a Democratic takeover of the House came true, Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she is confident she’ll be elected speaker but declined to rehash the reasons she thinks she’s the best person for the job.

The California Democrat said she’s made her case about being the best person for the job, noting that her skills as a negotiator. But she said at a Capitol press briefing that she didn’t want to answer further questions on the speaker’s race. She did, however, take time to address President Donald Trump’s comment that she deserves to be speaker.

“I don’t think anybody deserves anything,” she said. “It’s not about what you have done. It’s about what you can do”

Pelosi, 78, has held the top Democratic leadership position for the past 16 years. Several Democratic incumbents and candidates have said it’s time for a new generation of leadership, but no one has stepped up to challenge her.

There’s little question that Pelosi could beat any of her colleagues in a head-to-head caucus matchup, the first step to being elected speaker. But with several candidates having said they would not support her, there has been speculation about whether she can secure the 218 votes needed to be elected speaker on the floor.

Of the known newly elected Democrats and those who will be voting in a leadership election for the first time, only 11 have said they won’t support Pelosi for speaker. And only three of those candidates — Conor Lamb from Pennsylvania’s 17th District, Jason Crow from Colorado’s 6th District and Abigail Spanberger from Virginia’s 7th District — have specified that their opposition will extend to the floor vote.

Democrats will hold a minimum of 220 seats next Congress. Of the 21 races that have yet to be called, Democrats are leading in nine.

If they ultimately win those seats and none of the others currently trending toward Republicans, Pelosi would only have a cushion of 11 votes unless some Democrats opt to vote present, which would reduce the majority threshold she would need to reach.

Some Democratic incumbents such as Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader and Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind are unlikely to vote for Pelosi on the floor either, adding to the obstacles she must overcome to secure the gavel.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that Pelosi deserves to be speaker and during a press conference at the White House afterward said he was serious in his offer to help her secure the gavel if needed.

“A lot of people thought I was being sarcastic or I was kidding, but I wasn’t. … If she has a problem, I think I would very easily be able to supply her the necessary votes,” the president said.

Trump suggested those votes would come from Republicans, but historically minority party members would vote for the leader of their party for speaker, not the majority party’s nominee.

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