“Keeping our (House) leadership team completely unchanged,” Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio warned last November, “will simply lead to more disappointment in future elections.”
Oh, look! More disappointment!
Democrats lost four straight special House elections this year with ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the party helm. In fact, one could argue that Pelosi and her baggage helped fuel the surprisingly easy victory of the GOP’s Karen Handel in Georgia Tuesday. GOP ads there tied Handel’s opponent to Pelosi and her “San Francisco values.”
That theme probably seems strange to the elite inside the Washington Beltway. But in flyover country like Iowa, where President Trump visited last evening, it rings long and loud like Quasimodo’s bells.
Fully one-third of Pelosi’s 193 House Democrats now come from just three states, the usual liberal suspects of California, New York and Massachusetts, not the crucial Heartland. Pelosi’s entire leadership team is also coastal, and like her, linger on in their mid-70s.
“San Francisco values” is a successful meme sure to be reappear in next year’s midterm elections, if — and that if now looms LARGER — Pelosi remains House minority leader. With the strategic planning and wily recruiting of former representative, now Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Pelosi became House speaker after the 2006 elections when Democrats retook Congress.
But since Emanuel’s departure, it’s been trouble throughout Pelosi’s reign, BIG trouble. It began in 2010 with the help of Obama and his signature ObamaCare, which Pelosi had to pass to read. In that year’s midterms under Pelosi’s leadership, Democrats suffered the worst House losses of either party in 72 years, a swing of 63 seats to Republicans.
In 2012 and 2014 Pelosi predicted retaking the House. She gained but a handful of seats. Last fall she foresaw her party picking up a good 20 House seats as Donald Trump went down in election-night flames. He didn’t and she got only six.
Pelosi explained that stunning disaster with a rally cry sure to stir the heart of all progressives: “We cannot be taking full responsibility for what happened in the election. A lot of it was beyond our control.”
Pelosi did defeat a leadership challenge by Ryan, who is 33 years younger. In 2015, 66-year-old Speaker John Boehner also defeated a younger leadership challenge. But then within several months he sensed the winds of change and just gave up.
To regain the Speaker’s gavel, Pelosi needs to recruit good, solid candidates for 2018, which would have been easier had her “tie-every-Republican-to-Trump” strategy actually worked. Fundraising will be harder too.
No one can predict what might happen in these next 502 days. But as we wrote here earlier, by historical rights Pelosi should breeze back into the Speaker’s Office. In the last 20 midterm elections, the incumbent president’s party has lost House seats in 18. Democrats need only 24 more to oust Republican leaders.
Oh-oh! The average midterm seat loss is 33. Perhaps you’ve noticed, however, these are not average times.