In a closed door meeting on Wednesday, Democrats voted 203-32 to nominate Rep. Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House. The Senate and House of Representatives will conduct a public vote determining the Speakership in January that will require the majority of the entire voting chamber.
Pelosi, who became Minority Leader in the House in 2003, is the American first woman to lead a party in Congress. She served as Speaker of the House when Democrats had the majority from 2007 to 2011.
While Pelosi is running uncontested and has widespread liberal support she's amassed in her decades-long career, she’s recently faced a small but vocal opposition of about 18 Representatives led by Kathleen Rice of New York. Rice initially saw support among newly elected representatives who pledged to vote against Pelosi while on the campaign trial. But many of those critics, including Representative-elect Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, have since pledged their support of Pelosi.
The Speaker of the House is the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives and second in line to the presidency after the vice president. The position can be fraught politically — current Speaker Paul Ryan has faced a fractious Republican Party during his tenure. Pelosi, on the other hand has historically maintained a fair degree of control over the Democrats, using negotiating tactics like committee assignments to maintain leadership. (Pressley's support for Pelosi came after she was promised a position on the gun violence task force.)
In a recent profile of Pelosi, the New York Times points out that she has established her progressive bonafides — in her first floor speech in 1987 she vowed to fight AIDS and in 2002 was the most high-profile Democrat to vote against invading Iraq — and used them to convince members of her party to meet midway on divisive issues like Obamacare.
Despite her political skills, Pelosi remains a somewhat unpopular figure — but again — it's something that's actually not at all unusual for the Speaker of the House. Using data from HuffPost Pollster, the Washington Post showed in 2017 that unpopularity is not "actually terribly abnormal for someone in Pelosi’s position." Former Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan have also trended unfavourably in polls during their respective tenures.
While it's likely that Pelosi will be become Speaker, she still needs to convince some of the 32 representative who voted against her in Wednesday's session to either vote in her favour, or vote present to assure a victory in January.