Advice for Democratic candidates: 'Don’t say you’re for Pelosi'

Last week I wrote about one lesson from Democrat Conor Lamb’s win in PA-18. Lamb came out early and announced he would not be supporting Nancy Pelosi for Speaker if Democrats took back the House in 2018. That appears to have helped immunize him from millions of dollars of ads trying him to Pelosi. Sunday the NY Times published a piece suggesting there are plenty of Democrats looking to follow in Lamb’s footsteps:

Republicans intend to make Ms. Pelosi’s unpopularity a centerpiece of their 2018 strategy, hoping that her polarizing status will mitigate their predicted losses.

Anticipating this strategy from the right, Democratic candidates are increasingly opposing her as speaker or refusing to take a stand as an act of political inoculation — a trend that even her allies acknowledge could ultimately imperil her grip on the Democratic caucus.

At least two other senior Democrats, Representatives Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Joseph Crowley of New York, are already actively laying the groundwork to seek the leader’s job if Ms. Pelosi’s position becomes untenable…

As Democratic House candidates descended on Washington last week for a round of training and fund-raising, the topic of how to confront the Pelosi question came up repeatedly, according to multiple officials.

“I was just in D.C. and that’s the advice everybody gives: Don’t say you’re for Pelosi,” recalled former Representative Brad Ashford, a Nebraska Democrat trying to reclaim his seat. (He would not rule out backing Ms. Pelosi.)

And it’s not just candidates moving to the right, like Lamb, who are throwing Pelosi under the bus. She is also disliked by candidates who fit the Bernie Sanders mold and who consider her too establishment.

For her part, Pelosi is making clear she plans to stick around. “I am a master legislator, I am a shrewd politician and I have a following in the country that, apart from a presidential candidate, nobody else can claim,” Pelosi told the NY Times. She added, “If I was to walk away now, this caucus would be in such a musical chairs scenario.”

If Democrats retake the House this fall, especially if they do so with a convincing win, Pelosi will claim she led the party out of the wilderness. It may be true the party had to throw her under the bus in some districts to get candidates like Lamb elected, but all of that would likely be forgotten in the euphoria of an anti-Trump victory. Rep. Karen Bass tells the Times, “If we take the majority, I completely assume that Leader Pelosi will be Speaker Pelosi.”

If on the other hand, Democrats fail to turn all the ‘Resistance’ energy into a win this November, Pelosi could take the blame. And if the win is narrow enough that anti-Pelosi Democrats secured the majority, that would certainly be the end for her. So she’s really counting on a big win here to return her to power with that giant gavel.