Why Nancy Pelosi isn’t guaranteed the Speakership

The Democrats have won the House, and Republicans will have to hand over the speaker’s gavel in January. But it’s not totally clear whom that gavel will go to.

The long-running drama over the fate of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is entering a new phase. It has been clear for months that Pelosi might not have enough Democrats behind her to become speaker. Some incumbent House Democrats oppose the California Democrat because they believe it’s time for a new figure to lead the party, which Pelosi has done since 2003. And dozens of Democratic candidates, facing a barrage of attacks from Republicans linking them to Pelosi, pledged during their campaigns not to support her in a speaker vote. Of course, many of Pelosi’s critics were running in very red districts — so they lost.

But Pelosi still has some work to do if she wants a second tenure as House speaker. With almost all the 435 House races decided, we did a whip count of the newly elected or re-elected Democrats. Here’s what we found: Pelosi does not appear to have 218 votes to become speaker, unless some Democrats backtrack from previous comments suggesting that they will not support her.