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Nancy Pelosi has a math problem in her race to be House speaker

Pelosi: "I intend to win the speakership"
Pelosi: "I intend to win the speakership with Democratic votes" 01:46

Seventeen House Democrats and newly elected members have signed a letter vowing to vote against Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, which could leave the Democratic leader short of 218 votes she needs.

Pelosi needs the support of 218 Democrats on the floor of the House when members elect a new speaker on January 3. Democrats currently control 228 seats with eight races still outstanding, according to the latest CBS News tally.

The group opposing Pelosi has not yet released their letter, but the signers include the following Democratic House lawmakers and representatives-elect:

  1. Tim Ryan of Ohio
  2. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts
  3. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado
  4. Kurt Schrader of Oregon
  5. Kathleen Rice of New York
  6. Filemon Vela of Texas
  7. Marcia Fudge of Ohio
  8. Brian Higgins of New York
  9. Bill Foster of Illinois
  10. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts
  11. Linda Sanchez of California
  12. Jim Cooper of Tennessee
  13. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey
  14. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina
  15. Max Rose of New York
  16. Anthony Brindisi of New York 

Ben McAdams of Utah (CBS News has not yet declared Adams the winner in this race) is also among those opposing Pelosi.

The list was first reported by Huffington Post and confirmed to CBS News by a source familiar.

The anti-Pelosi faction does not currently have a candidate running against Pelosi, but Wednesday evening, Fudge told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that she was considering a challenge.

"People are asking me to do it, and I am thinking about it," she said. "I need to give it some thought and see if I have an interest. I am at the very beginning of this process. It is just in discussion at this point."

Earlier that day, she told reporters that she might run for speaker only to declare, "I'm just joking. I don't plan to run." On Thursday, Rep. Jim Clyburn said he still thinks Pelosi will win but added that Fudge told him she was "ruminating" a challenge.

Rep. John Lewis, of Georgia, said it's up to Fudge, but she wouldn't get his vote. "That's a decision for her to make, I'm a supporter of Nancy Pelosi," he said.    

Pelosi has tried to avoid questions about her potential challengers, brushing off several reporters during her weekly press conference Thursday morning. Finally, when CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe asked her if she would win the race if the election were held today, she responded, "Yes."

"I intend to win the speakership with Democratic votes," she said. "I have overwhelming support in my caucus to be speaker of the House." She acknowledged that "certainly, we have many, many people in our caucus who could serve in this capacity."

And Pelosi welcomed those lawmakers into the speakership race, saying, "Come on in, the water is warm!"

Pelosi has received dozens of endorsements from her fellow Democrats, including many would-be committee chairs, as well as outside Democratic groups. One of her strongest supporters is New York Rep. Nita Lowey, who is putting together a letter signed by congresswomen who support Pelosi.

"I am focused on the great majority of members who appreciate her leadership, know she has been a good leader, and we will make her leader again," Lowey told CBS News.  

A senior Democratic aide told CBS News that Pelosi "will be calling [this group's] bluff" and plans to bring the speaker vote to the floor in January.

Rice told reporters on Wednesday the full list of names who plan to vote for someone else on the House floor besides Pelosi will be released in a "'soon' time frame."

The group isn't solely focused on taking the gavel from Pelosi. Several members on Wednesday said they also want to see the other two long-serving Democratic House leaders, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Rep. Jim Clyburn, relinquish their leadership roles.  

"A lot of these candidates ran on change. That includes our leadership...which has been in place, you know Jim, Steny, Nancy, for 16 or 17 years now," Perlmutter said.  

"I have said it about all three –it's not an age thing, this is not a gender thing, it's not a where-you-come-from-geographic thing, it's not a racial thing," Rice said Wednesday. "It is this leadership team needs to turn the reins over to the next generation of Democrats."

Newly elected Democrats who are attending congressional orientation at the Capitol this week are being peppered with questions on whether they support Pelosi for speaker. Some of them, like Rep.-elect Katie Hill of California, spoke up at the new members' first Democratic caucus meeting on Wednesday to say she believes freshmen members want to "move on" from the internal debate over Pelosi. Hill told reporters afterward she will support Pelosi.

"As far as I am concerned [Republicans] tried to run these campaigns against every single one of us as far as comparing us to Nancy Pelosi and it didn't work," Hill said.

Rep.-elect Josh Harder of California told CBS News he is "keeping an open mind," and Rep.-elect Angie Craig from Minnesota said she will support whomever the Democratic caucus ends up supporting.

Other new members seem to be finding the decision more difficult, and they are saying little or nothing for the moment.

When asked repeatedly by reporters on Wednesday about how she plans to vote for speaker, Rep.-elect Abby Finkenauer from Iowa remained silent and stared at her phone.

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