House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was re-elected to lead the House Democratic caucus on Wednesday.
Pelosi defeated challenger Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who linked her leadership to House Democratic losses in the general election, while campaigning for the leadership position.
"People are saying, look, this has been a changed election," Ryan said in a Sunday interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace. "We want change. And there are a lot of members of Congress who now are understanding that we need to make a change." He contended that the party was loosing touch with Rust Belt voters.
"I think the — the clean energy community is a boon, and I don't think Democrats ever quite talked about clean energy as a way to resuscitate manufacturing," Ryan told Wallace Sunday.
Wednesday's results signal a possible riff in the caucus.
"But Pelosi’s margin of victory, 134 votes to 63 for Ryan, signaled a large degree of discontent with her continued leadership after 14 years atop the caucus and, more broadly, with the Democratic policy agenda that many lawmakers feel has grown stale. While she cleared her self-declared margin of victory, a two-thirds majority, many Democrats were stunned that almost a third of the caucus was willing to vote for a backbench lawmaker with no major policy or political experience."
Pelosi earned a reputation as a shrewd and effective legislator during her 14-year-tenure leading House Democrats. She recently pledged to aggressively defend Medicare in a Washington Post interview.
But the Minority Leader — a West Coast liberal — has also served as a useful villain for the Republican party.
President-elect Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway celebrated Pelosi's win.
Leading up to the vote, Pelosi's critics suggested the party had not "learned its lesson" from massive Democratic losses suffered under her leadership.
“If you were a big company and you were posting loss after loss after loss, the head of that company is not going to stay around too long,” Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), who backed Ryan's bid, told the New York Times Tuesday. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), also a Ryan supporter, told the Times that Trump campaigned on jobs, while the Democratic party failed to do so.
“He took our talking points and used them, and we didn’t,” Fudge said. “It’s not that we abandoned our economic issues. It’s that we stopped talking about them.”
Exit polls from the presidential race reveal a staggering number of white-working class voters in the Rust Belt who previously voted for President Barack Obama cast ballots for Trump, the New York Times reports.
Like Pelosi, recently-elected Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is often characterized as a coastal establishment Democrat.
“I think a lot of people are unsure if we want the faces of the party to be Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi: liberals from New York and California," an anonymous House Democrat told BuzzFeed News Tuesday. "It was different with a Democratic president — he was the face of the party, but now they will be."
Schumer and Pelosi's wins fuel concern that the party will continue to loose touch with the working class.
“We talk more about free range chickens than we talk about working people on the Democratic side sometimes here,” Ryan supporter Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) told The Daily Beast Wednesday. "We’ve got to figure out why are we here, who do we represent and what causes will unify us, rather than segmented issues that divide us."
Other Democrats advocated for Pelosi leading up to the race and celebrated her win.
"She is steady, and experienced," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told BuzzFeed News Tuesday. "She worked with Bush when she needed to, and effectively pushed against him when she needed to — I’m thinking specifically about the Iraq war and his desire to privatize Social Security. She is the best leader for Democrats, and she’s working to infuse that with new energy and is constantly elevating younger members."
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings (D), who endorsed Pelosi, defended her Wednesday on Meet the Press. He pushed back on the idea that the party lost its way.
Rep. Tim Ryan, for his part, congratulated Pelosi on her victory.
Pelosi confidently addressed the results and pledged to address economic issues in comments to reporters after the vote.
"I have a special spring in my step today because this opportunity is a special one, to lead the House Democrats, bring everyone together as we go forward," she asserted.
"Never again will we have an election where there’s any doubt in anyone's minds where the Democrats are when it comes to America's working families," Pelosi said.