WASHINGTON — Democrats face a dilemma when it comes to Nancy Pelosi's quest to regain the speaker's gavel next year. On the one hand, she remains incredibly unpopular — her fav/unfav rating in last week's national exit poll was 31 percent positive, 56 percent negative (-25).
On the other hand, top Democrats are adamant that she's the only House Dem who could do the job. "We need the strongest general that we have. We need the best tactician. We need the best organizer," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on "Meet the Press" last Sunday. "And that's her."
Another problem for Pelosi as speaker: Twelve incoming Dem freshmen who won last week say they won't support her for speaker. That number could jump to 16 if Gil Cisneros (in CA-39), Jared Golden (in ME-2), Andy Kim (in NJ-3) and Ben McAdams in (UT-4) eventually win their races. If Democrats end up flipping 38 House seats, they can afford only 15 defections to keep their majority. And we're not even mentioning the current members of Congress who've said they won't support Pelosi.
But here's the problem for Pelosi's opponents: There is currently no other House Dem stepping forward to take her on. "Asked about how the Pelosi defectors could beat somebody with nobody, [Rep. Seth] Moulton seemed undeterred, saying there was plenty of talent in the Democratic Caucus," HuffPo's Matt Fuller writes. But no one from that talent has accepted the challenge to compete against Pelosi.
Related: Nancy Pelosi through the years
Nancy Pelosi through the years
Nancy Pelosi through the years
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 8: File photo dated 08 May, 1996 shows US Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, speaking during a Capitol Hill press conference in Washington, DC. House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt (R, D-MO) is expected to announce 07 November, 2002 that he will not seek another term after the Republican opponents took both the House of Representatives and the Senate in mid-term elections 05 November. One of two Democrats vying to fill the spot is is Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi; the other is chairman of the Democratic caucus Martin Frost (D, TX). (Photo credit should read J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: US President Bill Clinton signs the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act Amendments of 1996 20 May at the White House in Washington DC. Standing behind Clinton are (L-R) Jeanne White, mother of Ryan, White House Aide Patsy Fleming, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), Rep. Henry Waxman(D-CA), Rep. Nancy Pelosi(D-CA). (Photo credit should read CHUCK KENNEDY/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 25: HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS: Ranking member Nancy Pelosi ,D-Calif., during the House Appropriations,Foreign Operations subcommittee markup of FY 98 foreign operations appropriations. (Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
SLUG:NA/BAILOUT DATE:9/26/08 WASHINGTON, DC CREDIT: DOMINIC BRACCO II From left, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) speak during a press conference about legislation for a bailout of the financial crisis on Capitol Hill on Sept. 26, 2008. (Photo by Dominic Bracco Ii/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Washington, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush is applauded by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) and Vice President Dick Cheney (L) as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington 23 January 2007. AFP PHOTO/Larry Downing/Pool (Photo credit should read LARRY DOWNING/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: WHIP RACE--Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, victor in the Democratic Whip race, talks to reporters and celebrates with supporting members after the Democratic caucus elected her to replace outgoing Whip David E. Bonior, D-Mich., who is running for governor of Michigan. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA,L) newly elected Democratic Minority Leader raises her hand with outgoing leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) 14 November, 2002 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Pelosi's election marks the first time in the history of the US Congress that a woman will lead her party. AFP PHOTO MIKE THEILER (Photo credit should read MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 26: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the California delegate breakfast in Boston, Massachusetts on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 26, 2004. (Photo by Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 02: STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS--House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., talk before President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
Congressman John Lewis, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Harry Belafonte, Jessie Jackson and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (Photo by Moses Robinson/WireImage)
WASHINGTON - JUNE 04: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses the 2008 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center June 4, 2008 in Washington, DC. Democratic U.S. presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) are scheduled to speak to the same event. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol May 22, 2009 in Washington, DC. Pelosi turned the news conference into an opportunity to list what she and the Democratic House leadership considered their successes of the 111th Congress' first session. She took a handful of questions about her upcomming trip to China and her statements about the CIA. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 23: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, right, and Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, shakes hands while addressing the media before a meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 23, 2009. Maliki pledged to mend sectarian divisions and fight corruption as he urged the international community to continue providing support to his nation. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC- Jan. 05: House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, accepts the gavel from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as the 112th Congress convenes at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) works with staff before a vote on the House floor during a typically busy day on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, Thursday, June 23, 2011. (Photo by Melina Mara/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES â DECEMBER 1: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly on camera news conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 22: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (L) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi attends the Public Counsel's 2012 William O. Douglas Dinner at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 22, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: House Minority Leader Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) waves as she takes the stage during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14: House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the media as female House Democrats gather around during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on November 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. Leader Pelosi said that she has decided continue to lead the House Democrats and does not wish to retire at this time. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, bottom center, stands for a photograph with Democratic women of the House on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. 65 House Democratic women are part of the 114th Congress, the largest number of women in a party Caucus in the history of the Congress of the United States. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: (L-R) Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, Apple's SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, CEO of Apple Tim Cook, music producer Jimmy Iovine and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi attend the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring Martin Bandier at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Vice President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leave a meeting with House Democrats in the Capitol Visitor Center where Biden briefed members on the nuclear deal with Iran, July 15, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 14: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., introduces presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to the press for her on the Iran nuclear deal following her meeting with House Democrats during their weekly caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi works with staff in her House Leadership office during a typically hectic legislative day on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Wednesday May 18, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) walks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after attending a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus on June 22, 2016 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 28: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), chats with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), during a memorial service to honor the late Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI), 49, who died from pancreatic cancer last July, at the US Capitol September 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: (L-R) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) drive nails into a piece of lumber at the 'First Nail Ceremony' September 21, 2016 outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The ceremony marked the official launch of construction on the Inaugural platform where the next President of the United States will take the oath of office on Friday, January 20, 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 22: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) answers questions during her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol September 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. Pelosi answered questions on a range of topics, including congressional negotiations on a new continuing resolution. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, right, shakes hands with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, following a meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. During their closed-door meeting, Pelosi expressed strong concerns about Trump's decision to name former Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon to be his chief White House strategist, and asked him to reconsider the appointment. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Bloomberg
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So Democrats are stuck — between the option of an unpopular Pelosi who's problematic for many of the House freshman who just won, and the option of no real Plan B.
By the way, NBC's Alex Moe reminds us that, for Pelosi, there are some ways around the current Dem opposition to her regaining the speakership. For one thing, some new and old members might vote against Pelosi in the closed-door caucus meeting on November 28 - where she needs only a simple majority from her own party - and still vote for her on the floor on January 3, when she needs a majority of ALL members to become speaker.
Also on January 3, Pelosi opponents could vote "present," reducing the magic number she needs to capture a majority.
Still, none of this is easy for Democrats.
Here are the 12 incoming House Democrats who have said they won't support Pelosi
CO-6: Democrat Jason Crow to the Denver Post in July: "I won't be supporting Nancy Pelosi…. I want new leadership to set up and move this country forward."
MI-8: Democrat Elissa Slotkin, to the Washington Post in May: "I think it's clear that on both sides of the aisle, people are seeking new leadership, and I'm going to be looking for someone who best represents my district and what we care about here. And I believe that's a new generation of leaders." And in November: "I'm not about to just flip my principles now that I'm elected"
MI-11: Democrat Haley Stevens in November: "At this time, Nancy Pelosi doesn't have my support."
MI-13: Democrat Rashida Tlaib to CNN in August: "She doesn't speak about the issues that are important to the families of the 13th Congressional District, and they are a priority for me."
NJ-2: Democrat Jeff Van Drew said in a statement in June: "After more than a decade of leading House Democrats as Speaker and Minority Leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi will not have my support as leader in the next session"
NJ-11: Democrat Mikie Sherrill in May: "I won't be supporting Nancy Pelosi for leadership either, because we know that the next 50 years aren't going to look like the last 50 years, and we need a new generation of leaders who are going to bring forward fresh ideas as to how we move this country forward."
NY-11: Democrat Max Rose said over the summer: "If the Democratic Party is going to earn back the trust of the American people then we need to show them that we are serious about changing our politics — and that means we need a change in leadership."
NY-22: Democrat Anthony Brindisi said this spring: "I believe it's time for new leadership on both sides of the aisle." And in his first ad: "I think it's time for new leadership on both sides of the aisle in Washington and that's why I won't support Nancy Pelosi."
SC-1: Democrat Joe Cunningham said on Twitter: "The Democratic Party needs new leadership now. If elected, I will not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker. Time to move forward and win again."
VA-7: Democrat Abigail Spanberger, in a July statement to NBC News: "We need new leadership in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, and at every level, from first-term members to Congressional leadership, and for this reason, under no circumstances, would I vote for Nancy Pelosi to again be Speaker of the House." And on Morning Joe on November 12, she said again: "I have tremendous respect for everything that Leader Pelosi has been able to accomplish thus far in her very distinguished career within Congress. But I do think that it's a time that as we have, just such an incredible level of divisiveness in our political rhetoric and discussions, we need new leaders driving the conversation. So I will be voting for someone else."
House Republicans hold their leadership contests today
Speaking of leadership elections, NBC's Alex Moe reports that House Republicans are holding their closed-door contests this afternoon starting at 1:00 pm ET. Only a simple majority of the conference is needed to be elected.
House Republicans will hold their elections in this order: minority leader, minority whip, conference chair, NRCC chair, policy chair, vice chair and secretary.
An on-camera press conference with the new leadership team is expected around 3:00 pm ET to 4:00 pm ET, Moe adds.
The uncalled Senate races (1)
FL-SEN (Scott leads Nelson by 12,562 votes as the contest heads to a manual recount)
(MS-SEN goes to runoff)
The uncalled GOV races (1)
GA-GOV (GOPer Brian Kemp remains at 50.3 percent)
The uncalled House races (10)
CA-10 (The AP called this race for Dem Josh Harder; NBC News has yet to call it)
CA-39 (GOPer Young Kim leads Dem Gil Cisernos, 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent)
GA-7 (GOPer Rob Woodall is ahead, 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent)
ME-2 (it appears the race is headed to ranked choice to determine the winner)
NM-2 (NBC News retracted its earlier call in favor of the Republicans; Dem Xochitl Torres Small is ahead, 51 percent to 49 percent)
NC-9 (GOPer Mark Harris is ahead, 49.4 percent to 48.8 percent)
NJ-3 (Dem Andy Kim is ahead, 49.9 percent to 48.8 percent)
UT-4 (Dem Ben McAdams is ahead, 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent)
WaPo: "Five days of fury" inside the Trump White House
It really seems like President Trump hasn't taken the midterm results very well. "As he jetted to Paris last Friday, President Trump received a congratulatory phone call aboard Air Force One. British Prime Minister Theresa May was calling to celebrate the Republican Party's wins in the midterm elections — never mind that Democrats seized control of the House — but her appeal to the American president's vanity was met with an ornery outburst. Trump berated May for Britain not doing enough," the Washington Post writes.
"For Trump, that testy call set the tone for five days of fury... During his 43-hour stay in Paris, Trump brooded over the Florida recounts and sulked over key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a 'big victory.' He erupted at his staff over media coverage of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I. The president also was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron's public rebuke of rising nationalism."
First lady calls for firing of national security aide
Here's more chaos inside the White House: "In an extraordinary move for a first lady, Melania Trump's office on Tuesday publicly called for the firing of a senior National Security Council official," per NBC's Carol Lee, Kristen Welker and Hallie Jackson. "Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's communications director issued a statement around 2:30 p.m. saying the official, Mira Ricardel, should no longer serve as the NSC's No. 2."
"'It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,' Grisham said."
"Melania Trump conveyed the incidents to President Donald Trump, people familiar with the disagreements said. The confrontations included Ricardel demanding NSC staff have seats on the first lady's plane during her trip to Africa last month, people familiar with the disagreements said."
Chief of staff Kelly might soon exit the White House
And here's EVEN MORE White House chaos from NBC's Carol Lee, Kristen Welker, Hallie Jackson and Courtney Kube: "John Kelly, mired in conflicts with a widening array of officials from the National Security Council to the office of the first lady, may soon depart the Trump administration, according to seven people familiar with the discussions."
"Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, is among those being considered for the job, three of the people said, though President Donald Trump has mused about other possible candidates."