Potential Pelosi Challengers Could Benefit From Delay of House Democrat Leadership Elections

Voting will be delayed until after Nov. 30.

— -- House Democrats are pushing back the elections for their leadership team for the new Congress until after the Thanksgiving holiday, moving to delay voting as the caucus continues to grapple with the unexpected results of last week’s presidential election.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told members during a meeting Tuesday morning that they would delay voting until Nov. 30, according to aides.

Democrats were expected to pick up as many as 12-15 seats in the House last week but ended up only gaining six.

While Pelosi is still favored to keep her seat, the delay could give potential challengers time to consolidate support in the House Democratic caucus. At least one other Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, has expressed interest in possibly challenging her.

Yesterday, nearly two dozen House members sent Pelosi an email asking her to consider postponing the election. “It is vital that our Caucus take the time to listen to the American people and learn the lessons from this difficult election,” the letter read.

House Democrats’ leadership elections have traditionally been held after Thanksgiving.

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts, who authored the letter, welcomed the caucus vote Tuesday to postpone the leadership votes until Nov. 30. “House Democrats must take the time to reflect on the message the American people sent us last Tuesday. Delaying the vote on leadership positions is the necessary first step to have that conversation.”

"There are some people who are unhappy," Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, said in an interview, describing members who think "we've had a few disappointing election cycles, and that new leadership might help that."

"I think Nancy has been a fine leader and she'll continue to be," he added.

If the ongoing fight for chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee is any indication, it is possible more progressive and populist voices from within the caucus emerge to challenge leadership as well. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, was one of only a handful of lawmakers to back Sen. Bernie Sanders during the presidential primary. He too welcomed a pause before voting, telling ABC News Monday, “Look, we just got hammered. We lost a presidential election we shouldn’t have lost, we picked up far fewer seats than we had hoped, and we’ve got to assess what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

"Nobody is blaming leadership for what happened. They worked incredibly hard. But do we want to have a discussion? I think we do.”

Pelosi, a prolific fundraiser who has led House Democrats for 12 years, has enjoyed steadfast backing through tough election seasons. In 2010, when Republicans and the Tea Party wave won back the majority in the House, delivering Democrats a so-called “shellacking,” Pelosi kept her seat, defeating former Rep. Heath Shuler, D-North Carolina.

Still, one of the realities Democrats are facing after last week is that their message missed the mark with Middle America, specifically working-class white voters in the Rust Belt. Both Pelosi and her whip, Steny Hoyer, come from coastal states, California and Maryland respectively.

“For both our caucus but also more broadly for our party … we as a party have to do better among all blue-collar working-class voters, yes minorities, but also white, blue-collar voters,” Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pennsylvania, told ABC News Monday. “We can do a much better job in reaching out to those voters.”

A group of over 30 female congresswomen sent their own letter expressing support for Pelosi. During a call with several House Democrats Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did not comment specifically on who she believed should lead on Capitol Hill but did seem to caution against infighting, according to Democratic sources.

“Two things we can’t afford to be is discouraged or divided,” she said, according to one Democrat on the call. “The people we all fought for in this election need champions more than ever.”

Progressive Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, said members want "an opportunity to sit down" and discuss the election results and the group's strategy under a President Donald Trump.

Pelosi has scheduled a post-election briefing for members Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill.