Dems push back against anti-Pelosi insurgents

Dems push back against anti-Pelosi insurgents
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House Democrats are pushing back against the small but vocal group of colleagues trying to oust Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), fearing the internal rift is damaging the party’s chances of winning back the House next year.
 
Whatever you think of Pelosi’s leadership, these voices say, the middle of the cycle is no time to attempt an insurrection.
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“We ought to be focused on 2018 [and] not be distracted by who we have [as leader] right now,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas). “We can’t be talking about this … right after we had a November election. 
 
“We’ve got to focus on 2018. After that, we can have a conversation.”
 
The insurgent Democrats, led by Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), contend that the liberal Pelosi, after four straight losing election cycles, projects the wrong image for the party and should step aside — or be forced out — to allow a new generation of leaders to take the helm. 
 
Moulton is stressing the urgency of a leadership change, arguing that the Democrats can’t win back the majority with Pelosi as the leader, so why wait for the next losing cycle to make the switch?  
 
“There is clearly a desire to have this discussion and to do something — and to do something now,” Moulton told The Hill last week as Congress was preparing to leave town for the July Fourth recess. 
 
“Another reporter recently suggested that people think we should wait until after 2018. I have not heard that from anybody — absolutely not,” Moulton added. “Some people may say that on the record, you know, for political purposes. But we want to win 2018.”
 
Moulton, 38, who had huddled before the recess with Rice and roughly a dozen other dissenting Democrats, said those “conversations” would continue over the break and beyond.
 
“We don’t want to wait until after we lose again to make the changes we know we need to make,” he said.
 
But a growing number of Democrats, representing a crosscut of regions and ideologies, say blaming Pelosi for the Democrats’ losses is misguided because any leader the Democrats seat will instantly become the target of similar GOP attack ads.
 
“It’s being taken out of context,” said Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldDemocrats call for increased security after 'send her back' chants The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-N.C.), former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “If it was a [Steny] Hoyer, or if it was a [James] Clyburn, or if it was whoever — Linda Sanchez — anyone we would elect would have a negative in certain parts of the country.”
 
 
“They demonized him. They made commercials with him looking like a fat, out-of-touch guy who was laughing all the way while the car was running out of gas,” Connolly said. “Two years later he’s the hero of senior citizens [for] protecting Social Security and protecting the country against the ravages of Ronald Reagan.
 
“Things change, images can change,” he added. “Public opinion can be very fickle.” 
 
With that in mind, many Democrats say, Pelosi’s public dissenters are undermining the party’s efforts to forge a 2018 economic message and contrast it against that of President Trump and the Republicans.
 
“Members are getting pretty tired of these ‘Democrats divided,’ stories,” said a Democratic aide keeping tabs on the ongoing saga.
 
Pelosi’s detractors, who had tried unsuccessfully to oust the long-time leader after November’s elections, revived that effort last month after the Democrats lost four straight special elections.
 
Those contests were all in deeply red districts, but many Democrats — energized by President Trump’s dismal approval ratings — saw the opportunity for an early upset. That was particularly true in Georgia’s sixth district, where the Democrats spent almost $25 million only to walk away with another loss.
 
The defeat emboldened Pelosi’s critics to attack one of her primary strengths: an almost unmatched ability to raise money for the party.
 
“Yes, she’s a great fundraiser, but if the money that we are raising through her leadership is not helping us win elections, then we have to have this difficult conversation now,” Rice told MSNBC after the Georgia loss. “Nancy Pelosi was a great speaker. She is a great leader. But her time has come and gone.”
 
Yet many other Democrats, although disappointed by the special election losses, have been energized that the party came so close in districts that were runaway wins for the Republicans in November. They’re also emboldened by a new 2018 election analysis by the Cook Political Report, which on Friday shifted 10 House races in the Democrats’ favor.
 
“You’re looking at seats that were won by a range somewhere between 23 and 31 points just seven months ago. And in all cases, we kept them to … 6 [points] or below. That’s a huge shift — huge,” Connolly said. “And if we can do that in red districts we have no business competing in, suburban competitive districts, some other marginal rural districts — I think we can be very competitive. 
 
“I’m not predicting it — too early,” he said. “But could we win the House? Statistically, yes.”
 
Hobbling the efforts of Pelosi’s detractors, no lawmaker has stepped up to challenge the long-time Democratic leader. Moulton said he’s been approached by those with some interest, but he’s taken himself out of the running, as has Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who lost a challenge to Pelosi in December.
 
There’s also the question of how the insurgents could force an internal leadership vote mid-stream in the congressional term.
 
Moulton said “there are different ways to do it through the process,” but declined to spell them out.
 
A second Democratic aide said that’s because such a process doesn’t exist.
 
“There is no procedure to do this,” the aide said Friday by phone. “You’d have to change the rules.”