Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed The Tennessee Star’s National Political Editor Neil W. McCabe to the newsmaker line to weigh in on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision not to step down, the retirement of Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN-05), and Trump’s recent endorsement of unknown Morgan Ortagus.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by the very best Washington correspondent in the country, the national political editor for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network, my very good friend, Neil W. McCabe. Neil, here’s the big news.
McCabe: Yes Michael!
Leahy: 81-year-old Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday she’s running for re-election. Your thoughts?
McCabe: There is no plan for succession. And Nancy Pelosi, when she was a young intern while she was in college, she worked I forget the name of the office, but she was an intern in the same House office as Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer. They knew each other when they were in their late teens, early 20s.
Leahy: And he’s like 79, 80? He’s number two on the House for the Dems.
McCabe: Exactly. He’s the number two. It’s remarkable that when you think about people you may have interned with that the two of you would be number one and number two in the House of Representatives.
She, of course, comes from a great Maryland, Baltimore family. Her father and brother were both mayors of Baltimore. But the thing is, she despises Steny Hoyer. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: Hates his guts, from what I hear.
McCabe: Something happened in that office 1,000 years ago and she refuses to step down and let Steny Hoyer take over. She thought that maybe she could hand it off to different people through the years, but just things happen and she decides, you know what, I’ve got to do this myself.
And one of the things that are interesting about the Democratic sort of fundraising model is on the House side, Nancy Pelosi is responsible for raising a lot of the money. And because she raises that money, she’s able to help Democrats get elected who are ideologically pure.
And so you have committed ideologues on the left, whereas on the Republican side, they tend to support self funders so that the party doesn’t have to raise their money. But these people who are self-funders, they’re not as politically conservative.
That’s why you have problems on the Republican side getting an agenda through. Just because a guy owns six dealerships in Ohio doesn’t mean he’s going to be like a really conservative guy when he gets to the House of Representatives. But it’s just one of those things.
The question now is, will the Democrats go along because there have been revolts. Tim Ryan got at least 60 or 70 votes against Nancy Pelosi. Was it four or five or two cycles ago in a House race. And then right after the 2020 election, Seth Meyer tried to run a mutiny against Nancy Pelosi because the speaker must be elected with 218 votes, a majority.
If there are three candidates, you can’t just sneak in with 180 votes. You actually have to get a simple majority. You have to get the 218 otherwise, they just keep voting until somebody gets at least 218.
When the Democrats have only like 220 or 225 people, it’s like basically five or seven House Democrats that could block the speaker. And so let’s see what happens.
Leahy: Crom Carmichael is in studio, Neil, and he has a question for you.
McCabe: Hey Crom.
Carmichael: Neil, first of all, let me just add to what you said. Nancy Pelosi controls who gets money in the Democrat primaries. And it’s the Democratic primaries where she controls it, because if she calls up the heads of the five families that control the government employee unions and says don’t give any money to so and so, that so and so will not get the money.
Republicans don’t have that. And so when you say self-funders, they don’t necessarily fund it out of their own pocket, but they do raise their money themselves. And so there’s not anybody that has the power to determine whether or not they’re going to get the money.
But here’s my take on Pelosi announcing she’s going to run again. The Democrat Party is hemorrhaging current members who are saying they’re not going to run again.
If Nancy Pelosi announced she was not going to run again, I think there would be 10 more Democrats, at least that would say, hell, Nancy Pelosi is not going to run again. I’m not either. I think part of it is to try to keep as many Democrats who are in now as she possibly can.
McCabe: Yes. And it just speaks to the fact that they have no bench. And as other rivals sort of popped up, she effectively sidelined them and drove them out of Congress, but she never set up a succession plan.
And so my very good friend Nick Ballasy had an interview with Nancy Pelosi’s grandson around the 2020 election who basically said, grandma is going to retire. And it’s like she’s not going to retire. She can’t retire. If she retires, the whole thing falls apart.
Leahy: That’s a very good point. Neil, yesterday we had some news here in Nashville. Jim Cooper, the Democrat representative of the now redistricted Fifth Congressional District, been representing that district since 1993 became the 29th Democrat to decide to say he’s not running for reelection. Your reaction to that? And then I have a follow-up question for you.
McCabe: I think it just speaks to the power of redistricting. People think that Washington is all-powerful, but if you ignore the state legislatures, they’ll just redistrict you and give you a bad district. And so it’s healthy to see the state exercise some control over the federal government. And this time it was Cooper’s turn.
Leahy: Last night, just as I was about to go to sleep, (Chuckles) Donald Trump made a surprise announcement from Save America PAC. He said, in essence, if Morgan Ortagus decides to run for the Fifth Congressional District, she will have my complete endorsement and nomination.
I had never heard of Morgan Ortagus. Turns out she’s lived apparently in Tennessee for all of 11 months. Apparently she moved here in February of 2021. People in Tennessee were very surprised by this endorsement.
There are many other candidates who’ve announced or likely to announce who are from Tennessee who that are going be interested in that. What’s your take on all that?
McCabe: Morgan Ortagus is Donald Trump’s Harriet Meyers. And he’s going to learn the hard way that you really can’t just endorse whoever you want. Caligula famously made his horse a member of the Roman Senate and the senators went along with it. (Laughter)
Leahy: That’s funny.
McCabe: Trump doesn’t have to find out. She has a troubled past and conservatives are out of their minds and they are not rolling with it at all. And if you look at Robby Starbuck’s Twitter feed, it is just a slew of retweets from very prominent national conservatives who will have none of it. He moved to Tennessee.
Leahy: At least he’s lived here for two and a half years, more than eleven months. (Chuckles)
McCabe: But he’s been involved in the community and he’s renowned for reaching out and helping different organizations raise money or messaging or doing what he can. And he’s put in an effort.
She was living in New York City and then joined a new healthcare company called Rubicon based in Nashville and then said, you know what? I think I’ll run for Senate.
Leahy: And then also former Speaker Beth Harwell, current mayor of Maury County Andy Ogles, and general Tennessee Guard General Kurt Winstead retired. Neil McCabe, thanks so much for joining us.
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