by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Will Democrats pull an “October Surprise” this year and announce that the highly polarizing Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco won’t be their candidate for House speaker after all? Growing up in the Bay Area, I saw Pelosi’s iron will and stubbornness up close for decades. The possibility of her stepping back seems remote. But she’s also the shrewd tactician who always tells moderate Democrats they can publicly spurn her because the imperative is “Just win, baby.” If the race for House control is close in October, many Democrats hope she’ll step back to deprive the GOP of a campaign issue.
Some Democrats are willing to publicly acknowledge that the highly liberal Pelosi alienates independents and moderates. “People pretend that it isn’t a problem, but it’s a problem that exists,” Representative Brian Higgins (D., N.Y.) told the Washington Post last week. He said frustrated colleagues told him that Republicans’ anti-Pelosi ads cost Democrats the House special election in Ohio, where they trailed by only 1,500 votes. One third of the national ads run by Republicans in that race mentioned Pelosi, and she became a real issue when Democrat Danny O’Connor, after first saying that Democrats need “new leadership,” finally admitted he would vote for her as speaker over a Republican if Democrats put her forward. …
Higgins says that challengers in other competitive districts are getting the same treatment when it comes to Pelosi: “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.”