- While Democrats grow optimistic about their chances of taking control
of the House in November, they are increasingly anxious that the
presence of their longtime and polarizing leader, Nancy Pelosi, is
making it harder for many of their candidates to compete in crucial
clinging to a 23-seat majority in the House, have made the House
minority leader a central element of their attack ads and are portraying
many of their opponents as inextricably tied to the liberal from San
Francisco. At the same time, some Democrats are expressing alarm that
she is standing in the way of the next generation of leaders.
Pelosi says politicians could learn from drag queens
tension was apparent Thursday, when Rashida Tlaib became at least the
27th Democratic House candidate to decline to say whether she would
support Pelosi. Some Democrats fear that anti-Pelosi attacks aimed at
the Democratic candidate in this week's special election in an Ohio
congressional district helped push the Republican to a narrow lead.
dynamic creates a conundrum for Democrats, many of whom rely on Pelosi's
fundraising prowess and admire her political savvy and status as one of
the country's most influential female leaders. But some also are
beginning to speak out about how allowing Pelosi to remain in charge of
the caucus could reduce the size of a Democratic wave in November or
worse, imperil their ability to win the majority.
KAMALA 2020?: Kamala
Harris now betting favorite among Democrats for 2020 election
pretend that it isn't a problem, but it's a problem that exists," said
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., who said he heard from frustrated colleagues
this week concerned that the anti-Pelosi messaging cost Democrats in
TRUMP VS. THE
Curry accuses President Trump of 'racism'
tension is exacerbated by a growing generational rift in the Democratic
caucus, with younger candidates and members looking to assert themselves
against a leadership team that includes Pelosi, 78, and her top
lieutenant, 79-year-old Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Among the
Democratic candidates who have declined to endorse Pelosi is Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic Socialist from Queens who has
become a national star of the party's left wing.
of Michigan, said it was time for a generational change, telling CNN
Thursday that her constituents "don't feel like they're being heard, and
I think that starts at the top with leadership."
say Pelosi, who is well-known among voters from her four years as House
speaker starting in 2007 and who wants to reclaim the job, continues to
be a reliable shorthand for a liberal Democratic agenda.
a third of Republican ads in the Ohio race mentioned or depicted Pelosi,
and GOP strategists argued that Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor's
last-minute equivocating on the Pelosi question was a deciding factor.
and her allies pointed to the top-line reality of Ohio: A district that
voted for Trump in 2016 by 11 points and for Republican congressional
candidates by much bigger margins swung decisively to Democrats. The
GOP's reliance on anti-Pelosi messages, they say, reflects an inability
to find any other effective issue - and to the extent she is a factor at
all, her role is dwarfed by that of the president.
robbed of gear, personal belongings after show at Fox Theater in
is the only figure who looms large over the midterms," said Pelosi
spokesman Drew Hammill. "At the end of the day the midterms are about
the president and his party, especially when they're in control of every
branch of government."
has long touted her ability to navigate the complex internal politics of
her caucus. "I think I'm worth the trouble, quite frankly," she said
last year after Democrats narrowly lost a Georgia special election where
she was a centerpiece of GOP attacks.
Democratic candidates across the country are being pressed about whether
they support Pelosi, and regardless of how they answer, they are being
subjected to GOP attacks tying them to her.
Wednesday, the biggest Republican super PAC focusing on House races
debuted an ad against Kansas candidate Paul Davis - one of more than two
dozen House Democratic candidates who have openly spurned Pelosi -
declaring that "a vote for Paul Davis is a vote for Nancy Pelosi."
Spain, a Republican political consultant, said Democrats are "going to
leave seats on the table" as long as Pelosi remains a viable face of
a race that was decided by 1,000 or 1,500 votes, that was probably a
difference- maker," he said. Even if Democrats win the House in
November, he added, "it could be the difference between having a
razor-thin majority and a governing majority. It's a lot easier to move
legislation when you have a cushion of votes to work with."
the Ohio race, outside Republican groups aired ads on a variety of
themes - taxes, opioids, education, health care and seniors. But Pelosia
ds dominated, especially in the final week.
said early on that he did not support Pelosi remaining as the top
Democrat in the House - echoing the stance of Conor Lamb, the
Pennsylvania Democrat who won a March special election in a GOP-leaning
GOP attack ads targeting O'Connor still highlighted Pelosi, and he gave
those attacks fresh oxygen a week before Election Day when, under
persistent questioning during an MSNBC interview, he conceded he would
vote for Pelosi as speaker if the choice were between her and a
said Democratic candidates, especially in Republican-leaning districts,
are trying to "customize their appeal" to their particular races, and
the Pelosi questions complicate that task: "They are stuck with that
question, and they do not deal with it well. You equivocate, and it jams
you up, and it costs you votes," he said.
GOP operative familiar with private Republican polling said the numbers
turned toward Republican candidate Troy Balderson after O'Connor's MSNBC
remarks - during a period that also included Trump's rally in the
district and an ad from Ohio Gov. John Kasich, R. A Democratic campaign
official said that they did not see any movement in their polling in
that time frame.
Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee,
said GOP officials saw no evidence in Ohio that Pelosi attacks have lost
Nancy Pelosi becomes a central part of the discussion in any race, that
is something we're winning on because we're not just talking about her,
we're talking about her policies," Hunt said.
by CNN Wednesday if Pelosi had hurt his campaign, O'Connor returned to
his preferred way of discussing the Democratic leader: As a figure from
the past who needed to move aside.
tells me that folks are ready for a new generation of leadership,"
who also is looking for a change, previously expressed reservations
about Pelosi in an April interview with the Hill, citing her role in
pushing former congressman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., out of Congress
over sexual harassment allegations.
Spanberger, running against GOP incumbent Dave Brat in the suburbs of
Richmond, Virginia, told the New York Times in an article published
Thursday that "under no circumstances" would she support Pelosi for
have gotten little political traction from their tax cuts, as other
economic changes - rising gas prices and blowback from Trump's tariffs -
have offset any financial lift. Instead, as a three-month sprint to
November begins, Republicans are focusing on the fear of "open borders,"
tax increases, the MS-13 gang, and Pelosi back in charge, overseeing a
Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee, said that whether trained on Pelosi or any other issue, the
Republican message has failed to resonate with voters.
after week, Republicans claimed to have a new silver bullet or line of
attack against Danny O'Connor, yet his positive image only strengthened
over the course of the election," he said. "Republicans are on the brink
of losing the House, and they are flailing."
has been careful recently to keep her party's message focused. She has
not embraced calls for Trump's impeachment; nor has she offered any
actual support for a growing campaign on the left to eliminate the
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. But Republicans say that, in
the eyes of voters, Pelosi's name is shorthand for extreme liberal
policies - even those she does not personally support.
the average American - not the average Republican, the average American
- Nancy Pelosi and her San Francisco liberal values are completely
removed from reality," said Corry Bliss, executive director of the
Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC, citing focus-group research.
"That means the resistance movement and everything that comes along with
it - raising taxes, getting rid of ICE, trying to impeach Trump."
Washington Post's David Weigel contributed to this report.