Are Democrats afraid of Nancy Pelosi?

Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Joe Crowley, seemed to meltdown into a stuttering mess when he was asked today if he would challenge Pelosi for the top Democratic leadership spot after the November election.

“If Democrats win the House in November, will you run either to replace Nancy Pelosi if she steps down, or against her if she doesn’t,” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Crowley.

“Well, on, on, on the, on, on the, uh, first portion of that, I would wait and see just what, wh–, what, uh, would happen if Nancy Pelosi did decide not to run,” Crowley fumbled.

“But if Nancy Pelosi stays, I don’t in— I don’t, I don’t a scenario by which I would challenge her for that,” he said.

There is a growing number of Democrats who say they won’t support Pelosi for re-election to a leadership position.

The Mercury News reported last month:

A survey of 34 Democrats running for Congress in competitive Republican-held seats in California this year found only two candidates willing to publicly commit to voting for Pelosi if they were elected.

Two others have said they would not vote for the San Francisco congresswoman. Eight said they hadn’t made up their mind, and the rest of the pack declined to comment or didn’t respond.

Keeping mum on Pelosi might be a smart political move for now, pundits say — nearly every key district here is facing a competitive primary between multiple Democrats, and publicly opposing her could annoy loyal party voters. But being too effusive about her would be politically harmful among Republicans and independents.

“Republicans have used her as a political piñata,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, tells the paper. “There’s probably more to lose than to gain by explicitly pledging to support her.”