Speaker Nancy Pelosi haunted vulnerable Democrats for much of the past year, and now that she’s been elected as the party’s House leader once again, defeated Members considering another run worry that ghost will linger.
Pelosi this year headlined Republican stump speeches and starred in conservative attack ads on television screens from Georgia to Nevada as a symbol of all things wrong with Washington, D.C. The California liberal was an unwelcome symbol for Democrats in Congressional contests across the South, but Pelosi’s shadow extended even into the trenches of the deep-blue Northeast. Republicans demonized the Speaker in New Hampshire state Senate races against candidates who had never even met her.
Foes and allies alike now say Pelosi is a consideration as they shape their own political future, even as they field recruitment calls from the White House. Some ousted Democrats went further, stating that her role as Minority Leader — cemented in Wednesday’s Democratic Caucus meeting — makes them less inclined to run in 2012.
Blue Dog Rep. Bobby Bright told Roll Call that for “everybody that lost,” Pelosi’s continued leadership would be a consideration.
“It was a major issue in my district. In fact, it was the only issue. So yeah, it would be a major factor for me to consider if I did come back,” said the Alabama Democrat, who lost his re-election bid and has yet to decide whether to run again.
Before the election, Bright became the first incumbent Democrat to say publicly he would not support Pelosi as the next Democratic leader. He ran ads touting his opposition. But Rep.-elect Martha Roby (R) still hammered his vote in favor of Pelosi for Speaker in January 2009.
In New Hampshire’s 1st district, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) lost a battle against Frank Guinta (R), who featured Pelosi in multiple attack ads.
“I am considering running again,” she told Roll Call this week, confirming that President Barack Obama called her campaign shortly after the loss. She also allowed that Republicans effectively used Pelosi to beat Democrats in races across the Granite State.
“I think it was really awful the way so many of these dirty money groups pounded her, and pounded us with her,” she said. “It was to the point where they even put her in ads for New Hampshire state Senate candidates who had never met her. It was abusive and dirty politics.”
But Shea-Porter, like other Pelosi allies, did not discourage Pelosi’s move to secure the House Minority Leader position for the next Congress. And she suggested that conservative groups were seizing on sexism to fuel the anti-Pelosi sentiment.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.