WASHINGTON — There’s a phrase that has been uttered repeatedly throughout Washington over the past week: “Never count Nancy Pelosi out.”

At least 17 lawmakers, led by Bay State Rep. Seth Moulton and including Rep. Stephen Lynch, have signed a letter vowing to oppose Pelosi in January’s House vote for speaker. While the number would likely be enough to stop Pelosi, it’s far from a done deal.

Certainly the burgeoning challenge to Pelosi represents one of the biggest challenges of her congressional career. But she is one of the most skilled negotiators the lower chamber has seen when it comes to knowing how to work the levers of power, so even if dozens of lawmakers voice opposition now, a lot can change before the floor vote is tallied in 48 days.

There are several factors to watch in the weeks ahead:

–The role of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The speaker’s race has divided black lawmakers. Most, including powerful members John Lewis of Georgia, Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, back Pelosi.

But another CBC member has emerged as a potential challenger — Marcia Fudge of Ohio, who was talked up by Moulton and fellow Pelosi critic Tim Ryan of Ohio as a respected colleague who represents the kind of change voters want. Fudge said she’s considering mounting a challenge.

That means the caucus remains a crucial element as Democrats wrangle over leadership.

–The politics of gender.

Pelosi supporters made the hashtag #FiveWhiteGuys to trend on Twitter, referring to Moulton, Ryan and a handful of others who are leading the bid to topple the most powerful woman in the House.

Speaking to reporters, Pelosi fanned the embers of that claim.

“If in fact there is any misogyny involved in it, it’s their problem, not mine,” she told reporters.

–There could always be a deal.

One of the signatories to Moulton’s letter vowing opposition said he would not necessarily vote against Pelosi on the floor if change comes to other positions within the House Democratic leadership — underscoring the notion that the list is not as ironclad as Pelosi’s critics claim.

“It’s about change,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado said. “She’s not the goal.”


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