House Democrats are Turning Against Nancy Pelosi. Most of Them are in Red Districts.

Last Thursday, Rashida Tlaib, the Democratic nominee who is the presumptive representative for Michigan’s 13th congressional district — and expected to be the first Muslim woman in Congress — revealed she would not support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s bid for Speaker of the House.

Obviously, Ms. Tlaib’s statement is conditional on a number of factors falling in place. Ms. Tlaib would first have to win November’s general election (she’s running unopposed, so that’s probable). Ms. Pelosi would also have to win her general (she crushed her opponent in the primary, so that’s likely). Finally, the Democrats must take back the House of Representatives (that’s another story for another day). Regardless, Ms. Tlaib’s opposition to Ms. Pelosi is important because she’s not alone.

At the time of writing, fifty-one Democratic nominees, incumbents, and failed primary candidates have said they would not back Ms. Pelosi’s campaign for Speaker. Outlets and pundits have long deemed her a liability, and those seeking House seats are beginning to agree. But there’s one crucial, missing detail: a candidate’s objection to Nancy Pelosi may be based on the areas in which they are running.

To get a better read on this trend, I checked the Partisan Voter Index (PVI) of each dissenter’s Congressional district. The PVI is a statistic created and recorded by the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political analysis site. It is used to measure how strongly a district leans toward a particular party, compared to the entire United States. The results were as follows:

As you can see, of all anti-Pelosi Democrats, Rashida Tlaib is in the most liberal district; MI-13 has a partisan lean of D+32. The vast majority, 91%, of these politicians are running Republican-held or Even districts. In other words, Ms. Tlaib is a major outlier. After all, the average PVI of a district with an anti-Pelosi district is still R+4.

A more in-depth breakdown of the nominees shows a similar story:

Of the forty-four Democratic nominees against Ms. Pelosi, Ms. Tlaib is one of three in a Democrat leaning district. Indeed, the average lean of all nominee districts is R+7. Furthermore, many of these Democrats are in areas that are winnable in the current political climate; the average swing in recent special elections is D+16, and some believe any Republican in a district that close should be “panicking.”

Interestingly, the nine incumbent Democrats against Ms. Pelosi are all in blue districts, and the average partisan lean is a cozy D+9:

From this information, a few inferences can be made, but the most important is this — many anti-Pelosi candidates are in Republican-held areas, and while there’s no way to tell if this factors into their calculus of whether or not they will support her, the relationship between a district’s lean and a Democrat’s likelihood of doing so is undeniable. Ms. Tlaib might just be a rare exception to this trend.

There’s reason to believe turning against Ms. Pelosi is a viable campaign strategy. Many attribute Democrat Conor Lamb’s surprise victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District to his steadfast rejection of Ms. Pelosi and her bid for Speaker. Dozens of other candidates may simply be following his lead, in hopes of seeing similar success.

Nevertheless, Ms. Pelosi should be worried, because a vote against her is a vote against her, regardless of where it’s from or why it’s being cast. This anti-Pelosi movement may mean the excitement doesn’t end in November, for if Democrats do flip the House, the real climax could come in January.


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