Updated Mar 15, 2018

Pelosi in peril

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), center, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, right, with other Democrats. Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Top Democrats tell me that if they take back the House in November, a restoration of Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no longer guaranteed. In fact, some well-wired House Democrats predict she will be forced aside after the election and replaced by a younger, less divisive Dem.

The big picture: Conor Lamb, 33, won his U.S. House race in Pennsylvania this week after saying he wouldn't vote for her for leader — a new template for moderates. Pelosi has hung in through the minority, and remains the party's most consistent fundraiser. As for whether she'll return as Speaker, she has just said that it's up to the members. (Her allies note that she has never lost a leadership vote.)

  • But others have their eye on the gavel, and many members want a younger, newer face. Her No. 2 and longtime rival, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, 78, covets the job but is three months older than she is.
  • Pelosi is more likely to be the bridge to a younger generation. A possible successor, who works the caucus behind the scenes, is Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, N.Y., who turns 56 tomorrow.
  • Another possible candidate who's getting buzz: Rep. Adam Schiff, a fellow Californian who has a sky-high profile as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, investigating Russia's role in 2016.
  • Dems point out the members and candidates can distance themselves from their leader for political reasons, but then ultimately vote for her.

One Democratic source told me that Pelosi hears footsteps: “She used to be retributional. Now she’s more inclusive.”

  • Pelosi allies see some of the criticism as sexist, and say she has always been inclusive of all parts of the caucus' diversity, including newer members.
  • Pelosi told the Congressional Progressive Caucus at a retreat in Baltimore last week: "Every morning, I don a suit of armor, eat nails for breakfast, and go fight inequality."
  • President Trump plans to invoke her frequently in midterm speeches, and Republicans already use her image to raise funds. And in campaigns this fall, many Dems challengers will be put on the spot about whether they'd vote for her as Speaker.

One scenario, from a Pelosi ally:

  • "She could win the caucus vote [for Speaker] easily but lose the floor vote."
  • "[I]f Dems win the majority by, say, a 10-vote majority, and 15 newly elected Dems have committed not to vote for her [like Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania] for leader of the party, ... she could lose the floor vote for Speaker. That would give the House to the head of the Republicans."
  • "She would never let that happen, and she would bow out to someone else."
  • "[S]he’s the best vote counter this generation has ever seen. So she’ll know this scenario well in advance, and will figure out a way out that will preserve her legacy."

Be smart: If there's a post-election coup against Pelosi, Crowley is the likely winner because Schiff and the others would scramble the field and Joe is acceptable to all factions.

  • One knowing Dem says: "My guess is Crowley is the next Dem Speaker/Leader. He’s the fresh face that the majority of the caucus yearns for ... He’s a spring chicken by congressional standards, at 55 years old."

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The number of deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 350,000 globally on Wednesday morning, per Johns Hopkins data.

By the numbers: More than 5.9 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 2.2 million have recovered from the virus. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.9 million tests).

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:00 a.m. ET: 5,594,175 — Total deaths: 350,531 — Total recoveries — 2,288,579Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:00 a.m. ET: 1,681,418 — Total deaths: 98,929 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Federal response: DOJ investigates meatpacking industry over soaring beef pricesMike Pence's press secretary returns to work.
  4. Congress: House Republicans to sue Nancy Pelosi in effort to block proxy voting.
  5. Business: How the new workplace could leave parents behind.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Trump's tweets about mail-in voting for first timeGoogle to open offices July 6 for 10% of workers.
  7. Public health: Coronavirus antibodies could give "short-term immunity," CDC says, but more data is neededCDC releases guidance on when you can be around others after contracting the virus.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Hong Kong police fire pepper pellets at demonstrators

Hong Kong riot policeissue a warning as they aim to clear away people gathered downtownon Wednesday. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong riot police have fired pepper pellets at activists and surrounded the Legislative Council during demonstrations against a bill proposing to criminalize "disrespect of the Chinese anthem" on Wednesday, per Reuters.

Why it matters: The bill is the latest concern pro-democracy protesters have that Chinese authorities are encroaching on the high degree of autonomy the former British colony has retained since it was returned to China in 1997.