If Nancy Pelosi wants to remain House Democratic leader, there will be a game of musical chairs in the leadership: Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the Dems' whip, has indicated that he would like to stay in the leadership. Therefore, current No. 2 Steny Hoyer, who is seen as more moderate, would either have to challenge Clyburn (not ideal for the party), be relegated to a lesser position, or simply leave leadership. Under the latter scenario, the No. 3 position of caucus chairman would go to Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) or Xavier Beccarra (D-CA). In essence, Pelosi could eliminate her chief rival within the Democratic Leadership and be surrounded by dutiful surrogates.
The following case for Pelosi to remain as House leader comes after long conversations with senior Democratic aides who believe Pelosi will stay on as minority leader of the House Democratic Caucus. (Note: We'll run the case against Pelosi in a following dispatch.)
1. Pelosi is the best fundraiser for the House Democrats outside of President Obama and President Clinton. She has raised more money than any of her colleagues and built a diverse fundraising network of both large and small donors. Her efforts in collecting donations have allowed Democrats to compete in numerous conservative-leaning districts from 2006 to present day. Her fundraising network just couldn’t be passed over to Hoyer. If she leaves, the Democrats will leave a lot of money on the table.
2. Pelosi, along with Rahm Emanuel, is seen by many within the party as the mastermind behind the 2006 and 2008 election strategy that gave Democrats their largest House gains in over a decade. Many feel she could rebound in 2012 and deliver the 20-plus seats needed to retake the majority in the House after the GOP makes unpopular spending cuts such as unemployment insurance.
3. Under Pelosi, the Democrats were actually able to pass historic legislation that had eluded them for years. Pelosi had the clout to tell liberals that the public option would die in the health-care bill, and the ability to tell the pro-choice caucus not to be worried about abortion rights being stripped away in the final bill. She’s the best vote-getter the party has, and the best at bringing many diverse groups of people together. If she leaves, they splintering within the party becomes too great and hurts it going forward into 2012.
4. Many liberals and progressives do not want to compromise on their principles to appease Republicans. They see no problem in doing what the GOP did over the last two years that is being the “Party of No” out of principle. If this is the direction that liberals and progressives want to go, Pelosi is a much better leader than Hoyer. There is fear that Hoyer would be too accommodating to the GOP and to K Street influence.
5. Why should Pelosi be the only leader to fall on the sword after the disastrous results for Democrats on Tuesday? The president is not shaking up his team. Harry Reid will return to the Senate, a Senate that couldn’t pass many House bills that liberals and progressives feel could have helped their election prospects. And Pelosi has worked harder than any other Democrat leader and earned the right to leave on her own terms. In no way does she need to placate moderates by stepping down.
6. Finally, part of Pelosi wanting to stay is personal. She and many within in her caucus feel that she’s the best person at the table for House Democrats. While the media play up the need for her to leave -- as do some self-serving moderates -- eventually there is no better voice to lead an aggressive minority party that will put the GOP on the record as being against the middle class and being pro-big businesses and the wealthy.