Jim Clyburn Speaker Speculation Ramps Up

Could a South Carolina congressman challenge Nancy Pelosi for the speakership?

This news outlet published an article not long ago discussing U.S. congressman Jim Clyburn’s designs on becoming the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.  As longtime critics of the liberal politician, we naturally took a dim view of his prospective candidacy.

Nonetheless, the 78-year-old South Carolinian has emerged as a viable challenger to liberal leader Nancy Pelosi – who remains the frontrunner to lead the chamber in the event Democrats pick up the 23 seats they need on November 6.

Pelosi, also 78, served as speaker from 2007 to 2011.   From 2003 to 2007 she was the House’s minority leader, a post she retained in 2011 and has held ever since.

Dozens of Democratic candidates – including South Carolina first congressional district nominee Joe Cunningham – have said they will not support Pelosi for speaker in the event they are elected and the Democrats win a majority.

Will that happen?   According to the website FiveThirtyEight.com, yes.   Democrats have an 86.5 percent chance of gaining control of the House in 2019 while Republicans have only a 13.5 percent change of retaining control, based on its modeling.

Do we buy these numbers?  Eh … yes and no.


FiveThirtyEight missed the mark wildly on the 2016 presidential race, projecting Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote by four percent and the Electoral College by 67 votes (she won the popular vote by two percent, and lost the Electoral College by 77 votes).

So we would argue its data should be taken cum grano salis.

We believe 2018 is essentially a coin flip, although when all is said and done we do think Democrats will wake up on November 7 as the majority-in-waiting in the House … to the extent things will be any different.

In fact, who knows?  Maybe after losing the House, Republicans can campaign on repealing Obamacare again …

Or balancing budgets …

Anyway, Pelosi has already successfully navigated a few internal barriers intended to her path to the speakership.  Last month, she easily beat back a bid that would have allowed a minority of Democrats in the House to hold their election via a secret ballot – one which would have mandated at least 218 Democrats pledge their support to her as the next speaker.

Only eleven Democrats backed this procedural bid – which was widely seen as an anti-Pelosi initiative.

Party leaders also recently moved up their likely speaker’s vote to coincide with new member orientation later this year, which gives Pelosi a decided strategic advantage over her would-be rivals.  That advantage would be bolstered even further if Democrats were to clear the 23-seat threshold with room to spare.

Still, could one of them (possibly Clyburn) conceivably outmaneuver her?  Absolutely …

In fact, we have heard from several top GOP strategists who tell us they relish the possibility of a Clyburn candidacy.

“I can see black Democrats who are tired of being taken advantage of striking a deal with white Republicans to put him in the speaker’s chair – especially if it’s close,” one Beltway operative told us.

Black Democrats are definitely tired of being taken advantage of …

“You cannot get to 218 (votes) to be speaker without the Black Caucus,” U.S. congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana told reporters Emma Dumain and William Douglas of McClatchy back in August. “If we hold, you cannot get the speakership without us. I’m just doing math right now, you can’t get there without the Black Caucus.”

Obviously, first thing’s first: Democrats have to win 23 seats next Tuesday.  Otherwise, this discussion is purely academic.  If that happens, though, get ready for a ferocious battle in Washington, D.C. over the leadership of this chamber – one which could conceivably end with a South Carolinian holding one of the highest offices in the land.

For those of you history buffs, the Palmetto State has produced a pair of speakers – but none since the mid-nineteenth century.  Langdon Cheves of Abbeville County was the 13th speaker of the House from 1814-1815 and James Lawrence Orr of Anderson County was the 22nd speaker from 1857-1859.



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