Rep Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was re-elected as leader of House Democrats Wednesday with the support of a majority of her colleagues after a high profile, serious challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who promised a more inclusive Democratic Party.This was the most serious challenger to Pelosi's leadership, a post she's held since 2003.
The last time House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) faced a serious challenge from one of her own caucus members, it was 2010, when then Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) received 43 votes, mostly from the Blue Dog Caucus.Six years later, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) put up a better showing, though he still came far short.
In a secret ballot in which no one would know who supported whom, Pelosi prevailed with 134 votes to Ryan's 63. The latter is a significant figure, especially given that Ryan's total number of public commitments, as of yesterday, wasn't nearly this large.It suggests there are more than a few House Dems ready for a leadership change, even if they're reluctant to say so officially.
But in the end, the 43-year-old Ohioan, wrapping up his seventh term on Capitol Hill, was never seriously in contention for the leadership post. Ryan offered fresh blood in the wake of a difficult election cycle, but he struggled to compete with Pelosi's established track record.It was Pelosi, for example, who led the fight in 2005 to kill the Bush/Cheney effort to privatize Social Security. It was Pelosi who led House Democrats to the majority a year later when few thought that was possible. It was Pelosi who played a key role, as House Speaker, in passing many of President Obama's top priorities in 2009 and 2010. This year, she led House Dems as the party gained seats in the chamber, even as Republicans won the White House.Ryan's pitch was hardly unreasonable: the Democratic Party finds itself in a terrible position as the dust settles on 2016, and there may be value in offering voters something different.But in the end, Dems stuck with what they know: a smart leader, with a record of success, who's earned her colleagues' loyalty. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told his colleagues this morning, "We need the very best to lead us.... No one is a better tactician than Nancy Pelosi."For what it's worth, in my conversations with Capitol Hill contacts, I believe Pelosi has never been as vulnerable as she is now, but Ryan probably wasn't the guy to overhaul the party leadership. His record is thin; he's done little to impress the party's old guard, and the Ohioan is perceived as giving up some of his more conservative positions as a matter of convenience. What's more, Ryan's call for moving away from "identity politics" has rubbed many minority members, including much of the Congressional Black Caucus, the wrong way.I wouldn't be surprised, however, if there's a more competitive race for this post in 2018, even if it's not Ryan leading the charge.