Clarke Tucker’s first general election ad for an Arkansas-based House race tries to defuse one of the GOP’s most potent attacks: “I’ve said from Day One,” the Democrat declares, “that I won’t vote for Nancy Pelosi.”
Tucker, an Arkansas legislator who’s running against Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), is one of at least 20 House Democratic challengers who’ve publicly rejected the minority leader on the campaign trail.
A trend that started in earnest with Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who won a special election deep in Trump country, has spread rapidly to encompass a growing cadre of candidates — many in must-win districts for Democrats that threatens Pelosi’s nearly sixteen-year grip on the party’s leadership.
If Democrats win the House by a narrow margin, the 78-year-old leader could lose only a handful of lawmakers’ support and still secure the 218 votes needed to clinch the speakership in a floor vote.
In that scenario, Pelosi would face a freshman class with a significant bloc of Democrats who are on record promising to oppose her or calling for new leadership. Of the more than a dozen Democratic candidates who have survived their primaries and rejected Pelosi, most are in districts that top the list of targeted 2018 seats.
Whether those statements translate into “no” votes against Pelosi when she’ll have enormous sway over new lawmakers’ committee assignments and other perks, and a presumably fierce whip effort on her behalf is impossible to know.
But for Pelosi allies, the spectacle is nerve-wracking. Never has the California Democrat been so close to regaining the speaker’s gavel since losing it in a wipeout in 2010. Yet the very key to what many consider her last chance at the top job a group of mostly younger, moderate Democrats running in GOP-leaning seats could also spell the end of her historic career.
“Whether you are someone who has been here a long time, a short time or a candidate running for office for the first time, people are being more vocal about how they feel about leadership of the party,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), one of Pelosi’s most vocal critics in the caucus.