When Nancy Pelosi made history last week for the longest speech on the House floor, she deserved praise for two things: her stamina for the eight-hour talkfest and her ability to do it in four-inch spike heels.
But politically, she likely did little more than create another attack ad for Republicans to run against Democratic candidates around the country.
Pelosi’s speech, mostly stories read from “Dreamers” – the children of illegal immigrants brought here by their parents and caught in a political firestorm between both parties – was red meat for the Democratic base. But perorations on behalf of illegal immigrants are unlikely to excite the independents, swing Republicans, and centrist Democrats whose votes will determine control of Congress.
Similarly tone-deaf were her warnings last year that the Republican tax cut was the apocalypse. “It is the end of the world,” Pelosi told reporters after the bill passed, “This is Armageddon.”
And calling the $1,000 bonuses that more than 3 million American workers have received ‘crumbs’ for the past few weeks was also not helpful.
A $1,000 bonus is not crumbs, and neither is an extra $100 per paycheck. As Democrats were supposed to spend their week fine-tuning their message at their party retreat, they had to face some hard truths about the face of the party. Pelosi is out of touch with people who live outside of her San Francisco district and Washington D.C.
Most of the people who live in the 100 House districts the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting are happy with their crumbs, don’t see the connection between illegal immigrants and a budget deal, couldn’t afford Nancy’s high heels anyway, and so far don’t see Armageddon on the horizon.
No one thing or person moves the needle more for Republicans than Democratic Minority Leader Pelosi. Place her in a head-to-head focus group against Trump in a swing congressional district currently held by a Republican, and Trump comes up on top every time.
That just hurts Democratic candidates.
This is why Conor Lamb, the Democratic nominee in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, said he would like to see Democrats replace Nancy Pelosi as their leader.
Lamb is no conservative. He’s pro-choice and believes there needs to be a broader discussion of gun control. Yet, he faces enough headwinds in this Republican-leaning district, and so he had to moderate somewhere to help him win. Distancing himself from Pelosi was the most obvious choice.
Still, the GOP is running ads in the district, placing Lamb side by side with Pelosi on the issues.
Democrats have a decent chance of taking back the majority in the House, or at least make it close. The signs of a wave are percolating but not quite clear. One of their biggest obstacles is Nancy Pelosi’s unpopularity among voters outside San Francisco.
As one Democratic strategist working on several House races put it: “We cannot continue to turn people off. The door just started to open for us, and if we don’t get our messaging right, it is going to shut in our face before it ever opened.”
Cursing $1,000 crumbs, declaring Armageddon, and standing in heels isn’t going to open that door.
Salena Zito is a columnist for the Washington Examiner.