There’s a big reason why Nancy Pelosi could stick around as House minority leader if she wants to, even if Democrats are unlikely to reach her stated goal of seizing back the majority on Election Day, and may not even gain a significant number of seats.
The 72-year-old San Francisco Democrat remains a fundraising juggernaut.
Nonetheless, with Democrats likely to remain in the minority after Nov. 6, murmurs have been building within her caucus that it is time to give somebody else a chance to rebuild their ranks, maybe someone from a new generation.
For sure, the woman who became the first female House speaker when Democrats gained the majority in 2006 carries political baggage. Some in her party still point to their loss of the majority in a 2010 midterm drubbing as evidence that the Bay Area liberal has become too much of a lightning rod for voter anger at Washington.
But other members say that perception has to be balanced with Pelosi’s continued fundraising prowess. Her appeal, especially to a base of liberal and female contributors, is unique and just too lucrative to dismiss or chase away, they say.
Numbers released by Pelosi’s office on Friday show that since entering the House Democratic leadership in 2002, Pelosi has raised $315 million for other party members.
This election cycle alone, as of Oct. 1, she has participated in more than 627 fundraising and campaign events, raising more than $72.2 million. In September, Pelosi’s office said she attended 77 fundraising and campaign events, taking in $7.2 million. Leading up to Election Day, she has 65 events planned in eight states.
Caucus elections for leadership spots in the 113th Congress will take place when lawmakers return to Washington in mid-November for a lame-duck session.
So far, Pelosi has refused to publicly declare whether she wants to stay on as the leader—or, if she does run again, how long she will stay. But Pelosi’s office is quick to reiterate what she has said in a television interview: If reelected, she will serve out her full House term.
Meanwhile, Democratic members and senior aides say they don’t see anyone with the political juice to challenge Pelosi for the top party spot if she does go for it; and that no one has publicly come forward saying they will try.
There is persistent talk, however, that Pelosi could be contemplating stepping aside as minority leader.
The scenario described by several lawmakers and senior congressional aides has Pelosi wanting to be chosen again next month as minority leader. Then, she would hang on to her top spot long enough to install a chosen successor, but not so long as to possibly become the GOP’s target again in the 2014 midterm elections.
But how this scenario would work--say, in terms of what role she might seek in a transfer of leadership power to either her No. 2, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, 73, of Maryland, or someone she else—is uncertain. So, too, is whether her caucus would go along.
For now, House Democrats are left waiting to see what Pelosi does. And among those in the wings are number of aspiring younger leaders.