“Pelosi Finds Her Footing as Democrats’ Attack Dog.” But unless you live in the Capitol Hill fishbowl, the more significant story is how Pelosi has disappeared nationally as one of the key faces of the Democratic Party.

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The Great Disappearing Act of Nancy Pelosi

And she continues to have her weekly press briefings. But the attendance at those events has dropped significantly to less than half of what it was when she was Speaker, according to one regular attendee. (One Democratic insider I spoke with disputed that assessment, asserting that more people attend the briefing now because it takes place in a much roomier space.)

Pelosi is still doing her job, including participating in Democratic message meetings. It’s just that most reporters don’t care, since she has a much less exciting and influential job after the November elections.

I don’t doubt that Pelosi would like to be a bigger part of the political conversation (she’s a politician, after all), but I also think she’s smart enough to understand that drawing fire away from the Republicans isn’t necessarily what she ought to be doing right now.

She needs to spend her time trying to keep her own troops in line, and that’s not an easy job given the nervousness of the relatively few moderate Democrats left in the Caucus and the growing lack of enthusiasm with the president among the party’s most liberal elements.

“She has been able to keep her Caucus united, and that has kept the focus on the fracture on the Republican side. That’s part of her playbook,” said one Democrat friendly to Pelosi.

Of course, Republicans would love to keep Pelosi in the limelight, which is why they try to bring her into the conversation whenever possible.

The most recent USA Today/Gallup poll (of adults, not registered voters) that included a question about her, conducted in mid-January, found only 33 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Pelosi, while a majority, 54 percent, held an unfavorable view of her.

But GOP attempts to keep Pelosi’s profile high enough to make her an issue next year are almost certain to fall short. Presidential elections — and presidential nominees — drive voters, and the Democratic Party will be defined by Barack Obama, not Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) or Nancy Pelosi, assuming of course that Congressional Democrats don’t do anything crazy.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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