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Delegating Lets Pelosi Focus on 2012

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (center) is working to be a positive force for Democrats leading into the 2012 election cycle. By tapping others in her party to speak out on the issues of the day, Pelosi is positioning herself for another run for the speakership.

“She’s been the Minority Leader before and she knows the only thing the Minority Leader is supposed to do is become the Speaker, and the way to do that is win a bunch of races,” one aide said.

Pelosi regularly asserts that redistricting has been a plus for Democrats, while Democrats note that President Barack Obama’s approval numbers have stabilized, as has a nascent economic recovery. Just like in 2006, the last time Pelosi was Minority Leader on the hunt for the speakership, she is repeating the same themes at every media hit and raising money. So far this cycle, Pelosi has raised more than $26 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has appeared at more than 400 events.

“Having an agenda is very critical today, and quite frankly she has the understanding that we’re not going to be able to have that agenda unless we take the House back,” DeLauro said in an interview.

But unlike the runup to 2006, when Pelosi and then-DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) were fierce, partisan attack dogs, the California lawmaker now appears to be deferring to her colleagues, letting them go after Republicans while she sticks mostly to a positive message. DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) frequents the cable news circuit, while Van Hollen regularly spoke to the press during the closely watched payroll tax negotiations. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) were more involved in that process, and they caught the wrath of some in their caucus because of the deal that was cut; Pelosi saw no positive outcome for inserting herself into the debate.

She has even tread into Republican territory recently, from teasing Colbert about her “Lenten resolution to do good works and be kind to Republicans,” to speaking last Monday at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Pelosi praised President George H.W. Bush during her conversation with Andy Card, Bush’s deputy chief of staff who later served as President George W. Bush’s chief of staff. “His name and his presidency are synonymous with the word ‘civility,’” Pelosi said of the elder Bush.

The veteran lawmaker will mark her 25th year in Congress this June, and a host of events are expected to help her celebrate the occasion.

In the lead-up, Pelosi is scheduled to appear at the Chicago Humanities Festival and the Women in the World Summit in New York next month, and she will address the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in May.

Some Democratic observers suggest Pelosi’s media strategy, and even her kind words for President George H.W. Bush, are in part to prop up her own public image that Republicans effectively tarnished during the bruising 2010 midterm election cycle and will surely do again this year.

An aide to a moderate Democratic lawmaker declared relief at Pelosi’s current work, saying, “I haven’t really understood why she hasn’t done this kind of stuff previously.”

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