Stung by their party’s dispiriting showing at the polls Tuesday, two moderate House Democrats say they and other centrists are privately discussing a plan that was unthinkable just 24 hours earlier: throwing their support behind a challenger to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The two Democrats told The Hill on Wednesday that they were reaching out to their colleagues about backing one of Pelosi’s top lieutenants, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), for Speaker in the next Congress.
“He’s the only one prepared and positioned” to be Speaker, said one of the Democratic lawmakers. “He bridges moderates and progressives better than anyone. And most importantly, he’s not Nancy Pelosi.”
The idea was immediately shot down by Jeffries, who says he’s focused on keeping his current spot. Yet the grumbling reflects a remarkable shift in internal Democratic thinking in the immediate wake of Tuesday’s elections.
Heading into the polls, Pelosi enjoyed the overwhelming support of her caucus — facing no threat of a Speakership challenge — and Democratic leaders were eyeing big gains to their majority, with some estimates in the double digits.
“It’s time for Democrats to elevate a new generation of leadership in both the House and the Senate,” one lawmaker told the Hill. “Americans are clearly afraid of ‘socialism,’ want safe streets and neighborhoods, and to vote for people who they believe will help put more money in their pockets. While Democratic policies can adequately address those issues, our messaging mechanism clearly cannot.”
At least seven Democrats were defeated in House races last night.
But the early returns revealed a different reality: Not only did Democrats lose a number of their most vulnerable members, they had not picked off a single Republican incumbent heading into Wednesday evening.