Why Nancy Pelosi should step down as House Democratic Leader
At 10 (or so) this morning, Nancy Pelosi is expected to announce whether she will seek another term as the highest ranking Democrat in the House.
There’s little doubt that if Pelosi wants the job, she can keep it. She remains immensely popular with the liberal wing of the House caucus which, if anything, has grown stronger and more unified in the past two elections.
She is also, without question, the best fundraiser among House Democrats (and maybe the second-best fundraiser in the party). Since coming into party leadership in 2002, Pelosi has raised $328 million, including $85 million in the 2012 election cycle alone, according to Pelosi aides.
And we have long maintained that Pelosi — even after she secured her place in history as the first female Speaker of the House — remains underrated as a politician and political strategist.
With all that said, politically speaking, Pelosi shouldn’t seek another term at the helm of House Democrats. Here’s why.
1. House Democrats badly need to transition to younger leaders. The three highest-ranking Democrats in the House are 72 (Pelosi), 73 (Minority Whip Steny Hoyer) and 72 (Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn). The only way that process begins in earnest is if Pelosi steps aside, allowing Hoyer to move up to minority leader (likely without a challenge) and Clyburn to assume the whip role (also likely unchallenged).
The real intrigue would be for the caucus chair job, where Connecticut Rep. John Larson (Conn.) is term limited. California Rep. Xavier Becerra, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New York Reps. Joe Crowley and Steve Israel are all seen as potential future House leaders and will need to sort out who goes where — and why. It could be an ugly process, but it is definitely a necessary one. And it only happens if Pelosi goes.
2. Taking back the House is likely a four-year (at least) proposition. When Pelosi stunned the political world by deciding to run again for her party’s top leadership job after Democrats lost their majority in 2010, one of the main reasons her supporters gave was that there was a real chance Democrats would reclaim the chamber in 2012. After all, Democrats had made big gains in 2006 and 2008 and watched as Republicans did the same in 2010. But Republicans controlled the redistricting process in many states across the country — a built-in advantage that meant Democrats never really threatened the GOP majority.
Pelosi will have to deal not only with those new districts if she stays on, but also with the history of “six-year itch” elections (the second midterm election of an two-term president). These are typically — though not always — campaigns defined by broad-scale congressional losses for the president’s party.
Given those entrenched factors, taking back House control looks like a four-year proposition, if not longer, for Democrats. Yes, the argument can be made (and has been made by Pelosi allies) that a) there are at least a dozen GOP-held seats in places like New York, Florida and even Texas that are totally winnable in two years time, and b) no one expected Democrats to re-take the House after the 2004 election, but less than two years later, they did. All true. But the weight of redistricting and history is heavy — even for Pelosi.
3. Pelosi would be a GOP poster girl (again). In the 2010 midterm elections, House Republicans ran hundreds of ads seeking to tie Democratic incumbents and challengers to the unpopular Pelosi. As the Post’s Paul Kane wrote in the aftermath of that election: “The most common ad feature that Republicans used against Democratic incumbents highlighted how often the lawmaker voted with Pelosi, who was almost always shown in grainy images.”
The Pelosi-as-bogeywoman messaging largely disappeared in 2012, as Republicans spent most of their energy (and money) on President Obama. But in a midterm election like 2014, it’s not hard to imagine Republicans again using the prospect of Speaker Pelosi against Democrats running in moderate and conservative-leaning districts — the same seats where the majority will be won or lost in the next decade.
While Republicans would undoubtedly find a new poster child for their efforts to demonize the national Democratic party, neither Hoyer nor Clyburn nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have the same sort of national profile — or anywhere close to it — that Pelosi “enjoys.”
Portman won’t seek NRSC chair: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opted not to seed the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, leaving Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) as the lone hopeful.
Portman’s name popped up last week, but aides now say he won’t do it. Part of the reason appears to be because of some grumbling about whether Moran is a good fit for the job (Moran is a non-traditional fit, in that he doesn’t come from a big state with lots of willing donors, and chairman are, first and foremost, fundraisers for the party).
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is stepping aside after two terms at NRSC and is on track to become Senate GOP whip
On the Democratic side, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has reportedly been offered the job at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, where he would succeed Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
Obama stands by Gen. John Allen, who has been implicated in the David Petraeus scandal for what the Pentagon calls “inappropriate communication” with Jill Kelley.
Obama will begin negotiations on the “fiscal cliff” with talks about letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire.
Top Romney surrogate and former commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez pushes for comprehensive immigration reform.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) says the GOP needs to lose its “tea party obstructionist stench.”
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was reportedly surprised by news that he might be offered the job of Secretary of Defense, rather than Secretary of State.
George Allen says he won’t run for office again.
Van Hollen thinks Pelosi will stay.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) backs off his claim that Democrats would have won the House if the election were held on the pre-redistricting congressional map.
Something we missed: Outgoing Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) says he might run for governor or Senate in 2014.
Democrat Ami Bera has upped his lead over Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) to 3,824 votes in the still yet-to-be-called race.
A new poll shows Sen. Mark Warner (D) would be a big favorite in the Virginia governor’s race, while announced candidate Terry McAuliffe is in a virtual tie with both Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R).
“The Romney Candidacy in Retrospect” — Ross Douthat, New York Times
“Don’t get cocky, Democrats: The post-Romney GOP looks just like you did two decades ago” — Jeff Greenfield, Yahoo! News
“I Lived a CIA Conspiracy Theory” — Chuck Klosterman, Grantland
“Obama untouched by Petraeus scandal” — Scott Wilson, Washington Post
“Gov. Christie’s Obama problem” — Christian Heinze, The Hill
“Obama Vows Firm Stance on Deficit-Reduction Plan” — Jackie Calmes and Steven Greenhouse, New York Times
“The Party’s Problem” — Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review Online