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Pressure is growing on Pelosi to relinquish her role. But will she?

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Nancy Pelosi
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill on March 1.Alex Wong / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — It seems like almost every other day, yet another Democratic House candidate says they won’t support Nancy Pelosi if elected. The latest one: Rashida Tlaib, the Michigan Democrat who’s poised to become the first Muslim woman in Congress.

“She doesn't speak about the issues that are important to the families of the 13th congressional district, and they are a priority for me,” Tlaib said of Pelosi yesterday.

In fact, our own Ali Vitali and Jack Bohrer report today that at least 50 Democrats now say they won’t back Pelosi, including 41 House nominees and nine incumbents.

Those disavowals come as Republicans continue to pummel Democrats with anti-Pelosi TV ads (regardless of whether they’ve said they would support Pelosi or not), and as some Democrats speculate that Ohio special election candidate Danny O’Connor was badly hurt by his admission that he would support “whoever the Democratic Party put forward.”

Pelosi’s justification for staying in her role has always been her fundraising prowess and her rise as the country’s most powerful female political leader. In April, her team bluntly reminded the party just how valuable she has been to their campaign coffers, saying that “since entering the Democratic leadership in 2002, the Leader has raised $659.6 million for Democrats.” (And, of course, Pelosi has famously stated that “I think I’m worth the trouble.”)

But does that argument play with a party that’s increasingly asserting that big money has no place in politics? Even Pelosi herself put out a Dear Colleague memo yesterday promising campaign finance reforms and noting that the “connection between money in politics and exploitation in policy is clear to the American people.”

The mounting count of Democrats on the record opposing her begs the question: Will the pressure on Pelosi become so great that she has to say before the election that she won’t seek the speakership?

Don’t sleep on the developments in the Florida Senate race this week

Of all the important states for 2018, Florida may be the one where all the national trends — anti-Trump outrage in urban and suburban areas, Trump loyalty in red inland counties, and general frustration with government dysfunction at both the state and federal level — seem to be canceling each other out, putting the focus more squarely on candidates and issues themselves. That’s why we paid special attention to developments in the Florida Senate race this week, which may end up being the most consequential contest for the upper chamber.

One the one hand, it wasn’t a great week for Bill Nelson. He said without providing evidence that Russians have penetrated some Florida voter registration systems, even though the state itself says it has “zero evidence” to support that claim. And he said he did not recall writing a letter in 2010 lobbying to delay rules regarding water quality standards — something he has slammed Rick Scott for doing in the wake of the ongoing algae bloom crisis that’s unfolding in the state. That prompted the conservative Senate Leadership Fund to put out a release suggesting that Nelson is “no longer dealing from a full deck.”

But Rick Scott is also facing what could be a very problematic line of attack over the toxic algae blooms that have made people sick, killed marine animals and hurt the tourism industry. It’s the first week of the race that Scott’s tenure as governor is starting to feel like a liability, with Democrats pointing to how Scott slashed funding for environmental agencies and cut regulations. He caught a break that Nelson flubbed his first attempt to go after Scott on the algae problem, but this is one issue that could really hurt him if voters decide to place the blame with his administration. (Both candidates, by the way, are up with ads on algae.)

Kobach will recuse himself as Colyer accuses him of violations

Here’s the latest on the ongoing count in KS-GOV, via the AP: “Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Thursday that he will remove himself from the further counting of votes while his Republican primary battle with Gov. Jeff Colyer hangs in the balance, describing it as a "symbolic" step in response to a public demand from Colyer. The governor publicly accused Kobach, the state's top elections official, of giving county election officials information about the handling of yet-uncounted ballots "inconsistent with Kansas law." He demanded in a letter to Kobach that Kobach stop advising county officials and have the state's attorney general do it instead.” Meanwhile, Kobach’s lead has shrunk from 191 votes to just 121.

This has been getting very ugly, particularly because Kobach has built such a reputation around his warnings of frequent voter fraud. What we can’t figure out: How does this end? Is there any situation in which there’s an agreed-upon nominee without lawsuits? How does either candidate feel comfortable conceding? And can the GOP get a Republican candidate in time to have a real campaign in a governors’ race that is very much competitive?

The party has to figure out how to fix this feud, but the president — who’s endorsed Kobach and helped elevate his national profile — isn’t exactly in a position to step in either.

Avenatti: 'I’m exploring a run for the presidency of the United States'

Yes, Michael Avenatti is in Iowa, appearing at the kinds of events that rising political stars attend when they’re prepping for a presidential run. Yes, he’s explicitly saying that he’s thinking about taking the plunge, telling the Des Moines Register: “I’m exploring a run for the presidency of the United States, and I wanted to come to Iowa and listen to people and learn about some issues that are facing the citizens of Iowa and do my homework.”

And yes, we are tempted to roll our eyes too. But we are also reminding ourselves to be careful of dismissing anyone who’s flirting with a presidential run, since, well, the last time the political press did that, Donald Trump proved them wrong.

Memo to our fellow political reporters — before you poke fun at Avenatti, just ask yourself how much you mocked Trump when he first said he was running.

Happy Friday, everyone.