Democrats Running Against Pelosi

Some Democratic candidates for Congress are working hard to distance themselves from Nancy Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi is so polarizing that a number of Democratic candidates for the House are renouncing her, Katharine Seelye reports for NYT.

As if embattled Congressional Democrats did not have enough on their hands, some are opening up a new front in their fight to save their seats — against Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House and a leader of their own party.

Representative Jim Marshall, a Democrat here in central Georgia, spent much of a debate on Thursday night renouncing Ms. Pelosi, whose liberal views and San Francisco district have always been anathema to this region. “Pelosi was never my choice for speaker,” Mr. Marshall said, eliciting boos from a skeptical audience in an arena here at the Georgia National Fair. Mr. Marshall actually voted for Ms. Pelosi as speaker but said he had not wanted her for the job and would not vote for her again.

As the midterm campaign barrels through its final weeks, more Democrats — many but not all in conservative districts in the South — are backing away from Ms. Pelosi and declaring their independence.

The more outspoken, like Mr. Marshall, are also running television commercials to drive the point home. Mr. Marshall’s latest opens with a gaggle of hippies mugging for the camera. “Georgia is a long way from San Francisco,” the narrator says.

At the same time, many of these Democrats have received financial aid from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose chief fund-raiser is Ms. Pelosi. In 2008, the committee spent hundreds of thousands to put Bobby Bright, an Alabama Democrat, in office, and it is spending money again this year despite his vote against the health care bill. Last week, he said he would not vote for Ms. Pelosi for speaker and began running a commercial saying so.

Biting the hand that feeds you is not always a successful strategy, but it underscores the stakes in the Nov. 2 elections. Many Democrats are doing whatever it takes to try to keep their majority.

And they apparently have Ms. Pelosi’s blessing. “I just want them to win,” Ms. Pelosi said in a recent interview on “NewsHour” on PBS when asked about the defectors. “They know their districts,” she added. “They are great communicators, very eloquent communicators to their own constituents.”

There’s no indication in the report how widespread the trend is.   But Pelosi is quite unpopular nationally, with 44% negative ratings and 15% positive (the remaining 40% have no opinion on her at all), so it makes some sense that Democrats in marginal districts would want to distances themselves from her.

I doubt the same thing is happening on the Republican side, since John Boehner is much less well known and less of a lightning rod.   But it happened toward the end of Newt Gingrich’s speakership.  And I’d imagine some moderate Republicans did their best to distance themselves from George W. Bush in 2006 and, certainly, 2008.

This phenomenon highlights two trends.   First, the leadership of both parties in Congress tends to be relatively extreme, a function of both their appeal to insiders and it being easier to achieve the required seniority in safe districts.   Second, despite the polarization of the parties, there are still some significant number — although not as many as there used to be — of Congressmen and would-be Congressmen who are comparatively moderate.    The first of these may eventually end the second.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    “This phenomenon highlights two trends. First, the leadership of both parties in Congress tends to be relatively extreme,”

    Nancy Pelosi scion of long time democratic family in Baltimore and now spouse of multi millionaire CA developer/ Mitch McConnell longtime KY Mr Fixit and subsequently senator for is it three terms(?) are extremists? Are you serious? Who do you think Pelosi is? Madame Defarge? McConnell (the guy in Atlas Shrugged whose name eludes me)? In fact both of them are mainstream reps of their respective parties. The only difference as far as I can see is that McConnell is to some extent the prisoner of his caucus whereas Pelosi isn’t.

  2. reid says:

    Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but I too fail to see how Pelosi is “extreme”. Sure, the Republicans have been trying to demonize her for awhile now, but that’s par for the course. They include Harry Reid in their Democratic axis of evil (with Obama). Is he extreme too? It all just seems like political games.

  3. IanY77 says:

    I remember taking an Industrial Relations class in university. The prof was a “hired gun” for management. She told us a lot of stories about crazy union reps, and some of the crap they pulled. One of the students asked why they could get so extreme, and she said that the true believers made it to the top. Whether it’s unions or political parties, the leaders are the ones crazy enough to put up with all of the crap that the process demands.

    Just a thought.

  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    “The prof was a “hired gun” for management. ”

    An objective source then?

  5. Eric Florack says:

    I’m with Brummagem here.
    The fact is, that while extremist in terms of the American point of view , so too is the remainder of the Democrat party. Which, in turn, is why so many democrats are going to be losing their seats in this next election.