Nancy Pelosi could be in trouble as House Democrats delay vote

Story highlights

  • A group of Democrats has been organizing behind the scenes to challenge Nancy Pelosi
  • House leadership elections will happen after Thanksgiving
  • Closed-door meeting started with watching of clips from "Saturday Night Live" mocking Trump

Washington (CNN)House Democrats decided Tuesday to delay their leadership elections until after Thanksgiving -- a move that will give reeling Democrats time to nurse their wounds and could spell trouble for longtime leader Nancy Pelosi.

After a closed-door meeting, some of Pelosi's supporters said it was time for some serious soul-searching in the Democratic Party.
    "We just had a shellacking. We just got a shellacking last Tuesday. We got an unexpected defeat and we've got to recalibrate it and decide how we go forward," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a Pelosi supporter. "It's just like death. There are difference stages of grief you go through."
    The vote is now scheduled for November 30.
    As she left the meeting Tuesday, Pelosi downplayed the delay, saying that it doesn't mean "very much because we'll be out for Thanksgiving. But we'll have for the rest of this week to go over some issues."
    No formal challenger has surfaced to Pelosi, but Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan has emerged as the de facto leader of a younger group of House Democrats looking for new direction.
    Ryan called Tuesday's delay a "good first step" and said the Democrats need to start thinking about states in "flyover country" that they lost to Trump.
    "We lost those voters and we've got to find a way to get them back in. And it starts with a message that resonates in the fly-over states," Ryan said. "Who is the leader who can going into the Southern states? Who can going into the Midwestern states? That's the question, that's the discussion we need to have."
    On CNN's "The Lead," anchor Jim Sciutto pressed Ryan, "it sounds like it's clear you're not ruling out challenging Pelosi for the leadership."
    "I'm not, and I don't think anyone else is. I think there are a lot of people having conversations right now," Ryan confirmed.
    A group of younger Democrats has been organizing behind the scenes to review Democratic leadership in the wake of last week's results. By Monday evening, Pelosi's challengers had gathered 33 signatures to a letter seeking a thorough review of why Democrats lost so badly, although the letter did not explicitly call for a challenge to the former House speaker.
    Wounded Democrats attempted to laugh off last week's results at the opening of their meeting, watching a series of "Saturday Night Live" clips mocking Trump.
    But the mood quickly turned serious, as Pelosi said she was open to delaying when Democrats pick their leaders, but that she had been hearing from members that they wanted their leadership selected before Thanksgiving and that the vote on timing should happen this Thursday.
    Pelosi told the members that she had planned to leave the decision until after Thanksgiving, but said they have to move forward now, according to a Democrat in the room.
    "I don't care. I'm agnostic. I was ready to go with after Thanksgiving because I didn't want the new members to be spending all their time worrying about who they are going to vote for -- for this, that or the other thing," Pelosi said. "Then, many of the members were saying: 'Why are you delaying the elections?' And the press was picking that up. 'Why are you delaying the elections?' I'm not delaying it."
    But there was long line of House Democrats who stood up inside the meeting looking to decide Tuesday whether they would push back their selection of leaders. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, pushed inside the meeting to hold a leadership vote December 1, but after it became clear that the majority of her colleagues wanted more time Pelosi backed down and set the vote for November 30.
    A Democratic member supporting Pelosi downplayed Tuesday's strife, "today was letting the steam out of the pot."
    Instead, the source said that much of the anger was directed at Clinton campaign for dragging down the rest of the ticket. The source also noted that Pelosi helped Democrats flip five seats previously held by Republicans.
    But even if Pelosi stays, the source acknowledged a need for change elsewhere among the Democratic leadership.
    "Our caucus needs a change, but it's not at the top. Replacing a woman with a white male would mean that the next time our nation's leaders meet -- the President with Senate and House leaders -- will look like the first time our nation's leaders met," the member added, referring to Tim Ryan's possible candidacy.