J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Nancy Pelosi has been for nearly a decade the least secretive arm of the GOP.
Linking a congressional candidate to the Democratic president and brandishing the specter of another potential president has been the quick fix for Republicans over the past decade.
But in 2018, this strategy failed – badly. The Democrats have overturned control of the House and are on the brink of winning up to 40 seats with their largest margin of popular vote since the Watergate scandal. Pelosi hopes to return to the position of Speaker while his fellow Democrats will have a first vote on Wednesday.
Republicans claim in part that Democrats have sufficiently distanced themselves from Pelosi in 2018 to convince voters of their independence. But with many of them still voting for her as a speaker, do not rely on the Pelosi strategy among the GOPs to go away anytime soon.
"I still think she's a toxic figure and an unpopular figure that Democrats definitely need," said GOP strategist Andrea Bozek, former communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "That is why a lot of Democratic MPs and candidates during the campaign said that they would not vote for it, which is rather unprecedented."
Pelosi once again showed his political prowess by courting even skeptical lawmakers and hesitant new students by his side. A formal vote for the President will take place only in January, but there are enough defections possible to give the impression that the California Democrat is calling for the hammer again.
On Tuesday, a group of 20 first-year students – including lukewarm people about her during the election campaign – issued a letter explaining why they were supporting 78-year-old Pelosi.
"The new class of first-time members is younger and more diverse than ever before, and a proven leader such as Leader Pelosi will be a valuable resource if we, ourselves, take the initiative to lead and work for improve the lives of people we represent, "reads the letter.
Elected representative Angie Craig of Minnesota, one of the signatories, admitted to campaigning, saying she would consider new leadership, but said Tuesday at a bipartisan roundtable that "nothing can be beaten with nothing "and that she supported Pelosi. after she met and discussed the need to act on several issues that she had insisted on during her campaign.
Other possible challengers of Pelosi also fell back. Ohio representative Marcia Fudge was a possible alternative, but last week announced her support for Pelosi after winning concessions from the leader and winning a leadership position on a panel on election administration. New York representative Brian Higgins, who had previously signed an anti-Pelosi letter, also reversed the trend.
According to a list published by NBC News, at least 58 incumbents or candidates in the cycle said they would not support Pelosi or that they were open to a new direction, far more than the number necessary to block it. they all opposed her.
Elected representative Lauren Underwood of Illinois was one of those on the fence. But she also said Tuesday that she had finally realized that people in Washington were focused on Pelosi, but she bluntly stated that "people at home do not care."
Underwood said she had been regularly interrogated about the Pelosi situation by reporters during her election campaign, while asserting that "we miss so much" of other issues of concern to voters, given the concentration on the leadership race of the Democratic Party.
Always a lightning rod?
Democratic strategists say that their winning strategy in 2018 proved that Pelosi was no longer the motivating factor that she had been for that reason, with their commercials more focused on issues such as healthcare and healthcare. the rights of citizens showing that voters want solutions and not just talk about who will do it. to be in leadership.
"It's a tired old notebook that they've been really trying to do since 2006," said Democratic consultant and advertising director John Lapp. "The Republicans have practiced it in different districts of the country, and it has really fallen flat in some way, and in some ways I would say that it has turned against them."
Republicans have long been trying to use the San Francisco legislator as incarnation of their anathema ideals for much of Central America – a liberal coastal elite that they could represent as wanting to raise taxes and to inflate the deficit.
Some Democrats claim that the way Republicans tried to use Pelosi as a political weapon this year was particularly deaf, while white suburban women rebelled against the GOP.
"There is a huge element of sexism here. [Pelosi] It looks like she's screaming or screaming and that her face is angry in all these commercials. It's kind of a symbol of women's power in their workplace and their leadership, but for some voters, it's a threat, "said Democratic investigator Anna Greenberg. Suburban, professional and well educated women support very, very strongly women in leadership, and Pelosi very popular among them. "
Even before election day, there were signs of cracking in the GOP's strategy. An internal Republican poll polled by Bloomberg News in September showed voters were more likely to support a Pelosi-aligned candidate than President Trump's five-point one-time endorsement.
Republican groups have always broadcast Pelosi-branded commercials in some of the races Greenberg took part in in the last round, including Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher's victory over Texas GOP representative John Culberson.
Greenberg said that she had never seen the numbers move so much after such an attack. However, other Republicans have privately declared that if they had not tried Pelosi again at some races and were not considered a national villain, they could have lost more seats.
Fletcher was another incoming freshman who had reported during the campaign that she would not necessarily support Pelosi as a lecturer. But since then, she and others have announced that they would support the California MP for the position he held – something that even Republicans attribute to Pelosi as proof of his political skills and negotiating prowess. .
Other Republicans admit that the reason why Pelosi did not work as a ghost-father this year is simple: the Democrats got a bigger one this time.
"It starts and ends with Trump," said GOP strategist Doug Heye. "Pelosi is motivating voters in the Republican base, but obviously the Democrats were much more motivated than the Republicans."
Heye was director of communications for the Republican National Committee in 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, while President Pelosi led the majority in the House of Democrats. in power. But as Heye explained last week in a Daily Beast tribune, the Republicans were keen to get rid of Pelosi.
"Nancy Pelosi, we believed, had to go precisely because it was so effective.If President Pelosi had not managed to pass Obamacare, our campaign would have no reason to go out there. to be, "wrote Heye.
First-year students like Fletcher and Underwood, who were still not committed to voting for Pelosi, or some opponents who remained opposed to it, were somewhat vaccinated against political attacks. Republicans say that during a special election around Pittsburgh in March, during which Democrat Conor Lamb managed to overthrow a GOP-occupied seat, the Moderate Democrat provided a game manual allowing him to to distance himself from the leader of his party that others have been able to reproduce.
And at the micro level, maybe the Pelosi strategy worked. Republicans attribute this to their help in saving another special election last year in the 6th district of Georgia. But when things turn macro, it's harder to stop the bleeding. After all, this same suburb of Atlanta has fallen into the hands of the Democrats at the halfway mark.
Even with less than stellar results this year doubling on Pelosi, not all Republicans are ready to abandon this strategy in the future. And with freshmen sitting on swings reversing the course and supporting Pelosi, the Republicans are eager to film these images of them expressing their vote for the January President that they will be able to use against them.
Democrats opposed to Pelosi also claim that it puts these new members in a difficult position during their first vote in Congress.
Some GOP members point out that if the Democrats partially control a branch of the government, a president, Pelosi, could actually help Trump, who could easily scapegoat it, which voters might believe easier now that Democrats have regained some power.
And if it can give it even more problems, do not be surprised if Republicans revive their Pelosi strategy in 2020.
Deirdre Walsh, Editor-in-Chief of the NPR Congress, also contributed.