Democrats Torn by Talk of Pelosi as VP

Posted October 14, 2003 at 6:25pm

Key House allies of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi say the nation’s most prominent elected female official should be a top Democratic vice presidential contender, but at the same time believe and hope she is not interested in joining the party’s nominee on the ticket.

Pelosi, who ascended to the minority’s top House post in January, has gained national attention in her new role. But while she has made plain that she has no designs on a political position outside of her chamber, fellow Members say they wouldn’t be surprised if the 2004 presidential hopefuls have designs on their leader.

“In my mind she’s in the presidential pool,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said, but was quick to add: “I don’t want to rule anything in or rule anything out for her. But I know that certainly a goal of hers would be to take back the House and what that would mean for her as the first female Speaker of the House.”

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), ranking member of the House Administration Committee, said there is “no question” that Pelosi is one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent females and “there’s no question about her ability.” But he said he too is convinced that she wants to be in charge of the House.

“I can’t predict what other candidates are thinking,” said Larson. “But I can’t imagine she isn’t” on the short lists.

One House Democratic leadership aide said even though Pelosi would be “flattered to be considered,” she doesn’t want the job — a stance reiterated by the Minority Leader herself.

“My mission is to take back the House for the Democrats, and I have no interest in being considered for the vice presidency,” Pelosi said recently.

Pelosi hails from the most electorally rich state in the country, key to any Democratic presidential bid. She also would add 17 years of Congressional experience, national name recognition and diversity of gender to the party’s ticket.

Steve Elmendorf, top adviser to presidential hopeful Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), whom Pelosi has endorsed, said the House Minority Leader “would be at the top of anyone’s list.”

Elmendorf said Pelosi meets the key vice presidential criteria, including her high profile, influential home state and background on critical issues such as intelligence and homeland security.

“She’s one of the three or four significant leaders in the Democratic Party,” he said. “Of course she’d be considered.”

Even with those credentials, House Democrats are keeping their fingers crossed that she wouldn’t seriously consider an offer.

“That’s the last thing I’d want to see as chairman of the DCCC,” Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) said with a laugh. “It would be my personal nightmare, but it’s probably true” that she’s in the vice presidential mix.

“I would hope not because I think she’s going to be Speaker of the House,” added Matsui, whom Pelosi appointed to run the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “But there’s no question she is the leader of our party in the House of Representatives, and she certainly has charisma and evokes a lot of excitement nationally.”

Schakowsky said whether the vice presidency is on Pelosi’s mind isn’t the question to ask, instead suggesting the question of “whether it ought to be on the minds of the people who are running for president.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a fellow California Democrat who chairs the state’s delegation, said she is confident Pelosi “would rule it out.” But if the Minority Leader were asked and “if she said yes, she would be dedicated to” the post.

“She is certainly extraordinarily talented, organized, decisive, smart and tough-minded,” Lofgren said, noting those qualities the country would want in a vice president.

Whether the nine presidential hopefuls want her is immaterial, said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), arguably Pelosi’s closest House ally. He said Pelosi is so focused on House Democrats, she “doesn’t waste any moment of the day” on the idea of the vice presidency.

Maybe not, Larson quipped: “You might be selling her a little short. She might be more presidential than vice presidential.”