Pelosi fends off challenge to leadership

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House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday fended off a challenge to her long leadership reign, defeating Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in a closed-door vote prompted largely by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE’s unlikely ascension to the White House.
 
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Pelosi got 134 votes to Ryan's 63 — winning 68 percent of the votes after declaring before the election that she had the support of two-thirds of the caucus. The victory sends a message that while there's a growing appetite for major changes in the party's leadership structure and messaging tactics, it's not strong enough to loosen Pelosi's grip on a liberal-heavy group that's rarely challenged her authority.

Ryan and his supporters had argued that the Democrats' grim performance in this year's elections — the latest in a string of cycles planting Republicans firmly in the majority — was a clear signal that Pelosi's leadership strategy has failed to attract the broad coalition of voters required to return the Speaker's gavel to the Democrats' hands. 

The critics pointed, in particular, to the party's alienation of the middle-class Rust Belt workers, who flocked to Trump and secured victories for a long list of vulnerable Republicans down the ballot. Ryan, who represents an Ohio manufacturing district that's struggled to keep pace with globalization and rebound from the Great Recession, said he was the right fit to make inroads with those voters.
 
Most Democrats disagreed, opting to keep Pelosi and her top lieutenants — Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Jim Clyburn (S.C.) — in charge of efforts to improve the party's fortunes heading into the 2018 midterm elections. 
 
Ryan said after the vote that even though he lost, the 63 votes he won showed a desire to reform the House Democratic leadership structure and bring new members into the fold.
 
"I think it sends a message that a lot of people felt like maybe they weren't getting heard," Ryan told reporters. "Now, they think there's a much better chance that they will. I think more people are inclined to speak out now."
 
Ryan wouldn't commit to staying in the House, saying he hasn't made any decisions yet on any long-term plans. He is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate to run for Ohio governor in 2018, when Gov. John Kasich must step down due to term limits.
 
Asked about his next steps, Ryan joked, “I want to go, like, get a sandwich.”

In a statement released moments after the vote, Ryan pushed fellow Democrats to put a renewed focus on blue-collar voters from the Midwest.

“Democrats must adopt a progressive economic message that focuses on large, direct infrastructure investments, affordable health care, portable pensions and public-private investments that promote advanced manufacturing. Hopelessness is a product of economic and social adversity. That is why Democrats must always be the party of aspiration and inclusion.”
 
The vote sent a message that a majority of Democrats consider the long experience of the current leadership team — combined with Pelosi's celebrated reputation for uniting the caucus — as indispensable assets in the legislative fights to come.

Pelosi was nominated by fellow California Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Democrat: Trump only loyal to the 'pro-Trump' party Sunday shows preview: Trump officials gear up for UN assembly MORE (D), with seconding speeches by members representing a spectrum of caucus constituencies, including Reps. Joaquin Castro (Texas) of the Hispanic Caucus and Gwen MooreGwen MooreHouse considers harsher rules for banks with North Korean ties Black lawmakers launch ‘root out racism’ campaign vs. Trump Dem to introduce impeachment articles over Charlottesville MORE (Wis.) of the Black Caucus.

"No one is a better tactician than Nancy Pelosi," Schiff said, according to an aide in the room.

Pelosi vowed to put the fight behind her in an effort to unify the Democrats for the sake of defending President Obama's legislative legacy from the incoming Trump administration and the Republicans who will keep control of both chambers next year.

"I look forward to working with all of our colleagues from the beautiful diversity of our caucus to put forth a message that does connect with the American people," she told reporters after the vote.

But she's also acknowledged the party's internal unrest, particularly among junior members frustrated by the lack of leadership opportunities, and several proposals she introduced to empower younger lawmakers were also expected to be adopted by the Democrats during Wednesday's meeting. 

While Pelosi's proposed caucus reforms were welcomed by many junior members, some lawmakers in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are pushing back hard against the idea that seniority would be an excluding factor in the race up the leadership ladder.
 
“Such so called 'reforms' are unfair, they deny equal treatment under the rules to all members, and they penalize the accumulation of seniority," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a CBC member.
 
Pelosi's victory was sealed by secret ballot, a process allowing members to cast votes anonymously without fear of political repercussions for those opposing the powerful minority leader. Only 12 lawmakers had publicly endorsed Ryan heading into the election — a tiny number relative to the scores of Democrats who had announced their support for Pelosi.
 
Of the 198 House Democrats eligible to vote, only Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) was absent.
 
- Cristina Marcos contributed.
 
- Updated at 2:07 p.m.