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House Democrats Wait on Pelosi

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Democrats failed to capture the House majority, leading some to question Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s role in the next Congress.

In recent history, the party of the incumbent president has fared poorly in midterm elections, especially in the second term, with the term “six-year itch” coined to describe the phenomenon. In that sense, Obama’s re-election could make it harder for Pelosi to regain the Speaker’s gavel.

In 1986, in President Ronald Reagan’s second term, Democrats won control of the Senate from Republicans and solidified their majority in the House.

In 2006, in President George W. Bush’s second term, Democrats took control of the House and the Senate from the GOP.

An exception was 1998, when Republicans were unable to make much headway with voters in the wake of impeaching President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinski scandal. Democrats picked up five seats in the House, spurring then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to step down.

One factor that could help Democrats in 2014 is the economy, which is expected to continue improving, even without further action by the federal government. Voters may reward the president’s party for these economic gains.

And the GOP may have a “donor fatigue” problem, some Democrats suspect. With GOP benefactors pouring in millions to help finance a robust outside money game and seeing such poor results on Election Day, donors might not feel as generous, particularly in a nonpresidential year.

“Are Republican donors going to continue to throw away their money on these outside groups when they have little to show for it this election cycle?” asked Doug Thornell, a Democratic strategist at SKDKnickerbocker.

On the subject of money, Democrats are concerned that no one in their Caucus would be able to duplicate Pelosi’s fundraising prowess, should she leave.

Pelosi raised $85.1 million for Democrats in the 2012 cycle, helping the DCCC outraise the National Republican Congressional Committee, an impressive feat for the minority party.

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