As speculation builds around what Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will do next year, many Democrats say the party’s surprisingly strong performance in this week’s midterms yields a simple answer: Whatever she wants.
Pelosi, who has served as the Democratic leader for the past two decades, has previously pledged to withdraw from the top of the party at the end of this term, clearing space for a younger crop of ambitious lawmakers to climb into the leadership ranks. And a number of Democrats intend to hold her to the promise.
Yet the unexpectedly strong turn for House Democrats in Tuesday’s elections has strengthened Pelosi’s hand as questions churn around her political fate, according to sources on and off of Capitol Hill. The party’s good night, many Democrats said afterwards, means Pelosi can remain the top leader — if she so chooses.
“She’s in the power position. We overperformed, and the wave never materialized,” said Ashley Etienne, a former Pelosi aide. “So, the choice is hers to make.”
While Republicans remain the favorites to control the lower chamber next year, Democrats stunned the political world Tuesday by clinging to dozens of seats in tough battleground districts and deflecting the type of midterm wave that routinely hammers the party of the incumbent president.