WASHINGTON — Democrats remain split over the best way to move forward after a string of losses in recent elections, and a number of House Democrats have spoken up about whether keeping Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the top of their leadership is in the best interest of the party as they seek to take back a number of congressional seats next year.
While "it's not necessarily her fault," according to Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio on NBC’s "Meet The Press," "they spent, I would say, hundreds of millions of dollars against her... the reality is the fact that we have to go into 2018 with a leader who has been damaged."
After Democrats lost a special election in Georgia’s 6th district on Tuesday, the debate over Pelosi’s role only increased in Democratic circles.
Conservative groups have made her a significant target in congressional races for years, and they spent considerable amounts of money in the Georgia race to tie her to Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff.
Pelosi has led congressional Democrats since 2003.
Ryan, who represents large sections of northeast Ohio including Youngstown and Akron, launched a bid to replace Pelosi as minority leader last fall after Democrats endured several 2016 losses at the national and state levels.
He acknowledged he has “enormous respect” for Pelosi and says she was a “tremendous speaker,” but told "Meet The Press" host Chuck Todd, “if we're not in power, Chuck, we can't help anybody. This isn't just a fight to have a fight. If Democrats aren't in, we talk about the Republicans taking 25 million people's health care away from them."
Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan on Sunday defended Pelosi, especially against any arguments that a leader from a new generation is needed, noting, “we elected a 70-year-old as president. Bernie Sanders is 75. Joe Biden's 74."
“I never thought we were going to win any of these four seats,” Dingell said, referring to the four special congressional elections of 2017 that Democrats lost in Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Georgia. “These people were selected to go in the cabinet because they were in safe Republican seats.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Sunday contended that the Democratic argument needs to shift to a specific gear, and that their problems run wider than just the loss in Georgia.
"It’s more than the special election," Sanders said on “Meet The Press." “For the last nine years, Democrats have lost the White House, we've lost now the Senate, we've lost the U.S. House, two-thirds of governor's chairs are controlled by Republicans, a thousand seats have been lost to Republicans in state legislatures all over this country.”
“I think there is a massive amount of demoralization on the part of the American people with the Democratic Party, with the Republican Party,” he said, referring to low wages and college affordability. “There is an enormous amount of pain in this country.”