Democrats wondering if they have any serious chances to re-take the House in 2018 midterm elections should pause to consider the outcome of the recent special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. There, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel by four percentage points, despite the Democrats pouring $23 million into the race, making it the most expensive House race to date by far.
Many analysts say that Ossoff lost to Handel because of associations made between Ossoff — who didn’t even live in the district he would have been representing — and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. While Pelosi may have the support of voters in her own Congressional district in California, there’s increasing evidence that she’s viewed extremely negatively by the rest of the country and even by members of her own party.
While Pelosi was once a force of nature when she was Speaker of the House between 2007 and 2011, the 15-term Congresswoman has lost influence, as the four consecutive losses of House special elections in the last six months have shown. Since Pelosi was succeeded as Speaker, the Democrats have lost 63 House seats and more than 900 state-level races.
Pelosi also had a record number of Democratic representatives vote against her for the job of House Minority Leader last year (she still managed a victory over Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio), and now, some of those same members of Congress have openly called for her resignation from the House’s top Democratic position.
“I sat in a meeting the other day, and I listened to a rationale as to how we should be happy as a caucus because we didn’t lose as badly these past two days as we did a year ago,” said Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York. “But we’re still losing. And that’s my concern. We need to find a different path. We need to have a vision.” Rice called Pelosi a “great leader” and a “great speaker,” but said, “her time has come and gone. She’s a great fundraiser, but if the money we’re raising through her leadership is not helping us win elections, we have to have this difficult conversation now. There comes a time in every leader’s life when they have to know it’s time to leave and usher in the next generation of leaders. And I personally believe that time is now. I thought the time was last November, and I was very vocal about it.”
Democratic Congressman Ryan, who has been no fan of Pelosi for some time, declared that “the [Democrats’] brand [under Pelosi] is just bad. I don’t think people in the beltway are realizing just how toxic the Democratic Party brand is in so many parts of the country… In some parts of the country, [Pelosi] is [viewed more negatively than Trump]. I think that in certain areas, like in some of these special election districts, it doesn’t benefit our candidates to be tied to her.”
Ryan, of course, is likely referring to the fact that as an ultra-liberal millionaire from San Francisco, Pelosi bears little resemblance to middle-class voters around the country, and her priorities and positions are out of tune with the populism that helped elect President Trump in 2016. Of course, her elite status has allowed Pelosi to continue to be one of the Democrats’ top fundraisers, but as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proved, all the money in the world won’t guarantee an election outcome (in fact, some would say just the opposite is true).
But so out of touch is Pelosi that her bewildering assessment of the special election in Georgia was that the outcome was still “good” because she claimed it showed the Democrats had made gains in traditionally Republican areas (which is technically true, but it still didn’t result in a Democratic victory). She also denied any personal responsibility for Ossoff’s loss, claiming that his defeat was not an “attack on me.”
She insisted that “I serve at the pleasure of my caucus, and my caucus is overwhelmingly supportive.” Pelosi referred to herself as a “politically astute leader” and a “master legislator” and claimed she’s been targeted by Republicans because she’s been ultra-effective in her role.
“My decision of how long to stay is not up to them,” she stated.
But President Trump and other Republicans, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, have mocked Pelosi and said that they hope she stays in her position much longer as that would almost certainly allow Republicans to maintain a majority in the House of Representatives past the 2018 midterm elections.
“I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P out!” tweeted President Trump. “That would be very bad for the Republican Party.”
“I hope they keep Nancy for 10 more years,” chimed in Gingrich in an interview on Fox News. “I want her there for at least another decade. We know exactly how to run against the Nancy Pelosi-run party. We have no questions in 2018 [if it’s] Nancy Pelosi versus [Republican Speaker] Paul Ryan, and I hope that the Democrats keep her right where she is for a long, long time. At least a decade.”
With somewhat less humor, political analysts such as the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Larry Sabato think the writing is on the wall for Pelosi. “A lot of Democrats are tired of her and tired of defending her. When you’re as controversial as Pelosi is, you become pretty well-known and universally disliked. The image of her for the Democrats is just awful.” Sabato said he’d also heard from several leading Democrats regarding their blunt outlook on Pelosi. “One called, and one emailed, saying ‘we want her out.'”
According to a former staffer of Hillary Clinton who declined to be identified, “Nancy Pelosi has been an effective bogeyman for Republicans for decades, and it just seems like it’s time for her to go.” Prominent Democratic consultant Lachlan McIntosh agreed, admitting, “The perception of Democratic leadership is so bad. It’s so bad that it gets people out of their homes to go vote. We gotta address it or we’re going to continue to lose.”