Pelosi 'in the driver's seat' if she wants to stay as top Dem in House after strong midterms, experts say

Pelosi 'in the driver's seat' if she wants to stay as top Dem in House after strong midterms, experts say

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could parlay Democrats’ strong electoral performance during the midterm elections into another term atop the conference, party strategists and political experts say, possibly torpedoing months of Democratic preparation for a post-Pelosi world. 

“Speaker Pelosi is in the driver’s seat when it comes to her future and the future of the Democratic House Caucus given the incredible turn of events last night,” Democratic strategist and former Biden 2020 surrogate Kevin Walling told Fox News Digital. 

Amid expectations of a red wave, Democrats outperformed consensus in the House. As of Wednesday afternoon, Fox News Decision Desk had not officially called control of the chamber. But if Republicans do take control in 2023 as they are expecting, it will likely be by a much smaller majority than anticipated. 

This result for Democrats under hear leadership, which bucks historical trends – plus recent hints from Pelosi, D-Calif., that she may stay in the arena after an attack on her husband – could mean the speaker is sticking around. 

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., led Democrats to a better than expected midterm performance. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., led Democrats to a better than expected midterm performance.  (Getty Images)

Multiple House Democratic sources recently suggested to Fox News’ Chad Pergram that Pelosi may not be ready to hang it up, particularly in the wake of the recent attack on her husband, Paul Pelosi, in the couple’s California home. They believe it’s possible that the attack on Pelosi’s husband could embolden the speaker to stay. 

Pelosi stoked this speculation in a recent CNN interview. She said the attack on her husband will affect her decision about her political future. 

Pelosi dodged a similar question in a PBS interview Tuesday. And her office did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital about the topic Wednesday. 

“Members of Congress, and especially members of Congress in the upper echelons, are almost a different breed of people,” R Street Institute senior fellow for governance James Wallner told Fox News Digital. “In that scenario, an attack on one’s spouse could steel your nerve and say, ‘You know what… I’m going to show them. I’m going to stick around.'”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was laying the groundwork for a leadership run, a Democratic aide said. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was laying the groundwork for a leadership run, a Democratic aide said.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

That would roil the complex shadow-race to replace Pelosi as the top House Democrat, which if she steps down would likely include several high-profile members.

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A House Democratic aide recently told Fox News Digital that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is laying the groundwork for a leadership bid. That aide also said Hosue Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., appears to have more support than Schiff for the post. 

Others potentially eyeing the gig include Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who visited 66 districts in 27 states campaigning for other Democrats this cycle – the kind of thing someone angling for a leadership post would do – and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who also kept a busy campaign schedule.

Other potential experienced candidates to lead Democrats include Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar, D-Calif. House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., could also have a strong constituency among the party’s left flank if she runs. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., kept a busy midterm campaign schedule. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., kept a busy midterm campaign schedule.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Wallner said that with a divided caucus and a progressive wing hungry for change, Pelosi could have a hard time winning a leadership election if she chooses to stay on. 

Mark Penn, a former adviser to former President Bill Clinton, said he believes Pelosi’s decision will ultimately come down to if Democrats eke out a House majority. 

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“If the Democrats with the House, Pelosi will stay on — she has shown grit and determination and seems to love her job,” he told Fox News Digital. “If the Dems lose the House, as they are likely to do, I don’t think she would stay on in leadership as that would be a step down. She would then make a graceful exit and celebrate a successful term.”

Democratic strategist Walling, meanwhile, said he could see Pelosi choosing to retire. But if she does seek to stay in leadership, he said, she’d have a strong chance. 

“On a call with her members today she described the election results as a ‘remarkable achievement’ which I think is totally true given historic trends and national headwinds and a testament to Pelosi’s leadership and optimism,” Walling told Fox News Digital. “I could also see her seeking and easily securing another term as minority leader knowing just how precarious Kevin McCarthy’s majority will be and her ability to run legislative circles around him.”

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Pelosi Wednesday left for a climate summit in Egypt without announcing any future plans. She will have time to decide, with Democratic leadership elections likely later this month or early December. 

Representatives for Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, Jeffries, Schiff. Aguilar, Clark and Jayapal did not provide comment for this story. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Kelly Phares contributed to this report.