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Can Nancy Pelosi win a 'competence' election against Trump? It didn't work so well in 2016

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told lawmakers at a Democratic leadership meeting that she thinks calls to impeach President Trump go nowhere. Pelosi is eager to show her party can govern. That means no drama. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is not keen on environmental megadonor Tom Steyer's latest ad campaign.

Pelosi offered a forced smile recently when asked on MSNBC about a Tom Steyer-sponsored ad that calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
“That’s a great ad,” Pelosi said twice, before rushing to plug the Democrats’ Better Deal economic agenda as the TV hit wrapped up.
Pelosi played it off, but privately she was peeved. She told lawmakers at a Democratic leadership meeting soon after that she had reached out to the Democratic megadonor to tell him that his $10 million ad campaign is a distraction ... Pelosi is eager to show her party can govern — in contrast to the chaos surrounding Trump — and she believes that a reputation as the “no drama" Democrats is key to taking back the House in 2018 and whisking her backing into the speaker’s chair.

This is a tough call. On the one hand, she has a point. The Trump impeachment crusade is leading nowhere. And Trump seems to thrive on distracting the electorate with an endless stream of trivial conflicts. We're meant to live or die over the NFL, or Trump's unsubtle comments about anything from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to protesters at campaign events to the father of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shooting President John F. Kennedy.

If we ignore all of the smoke that Trump is sending up, might that not work in Democrats' favor?

Well, maybe not. Hillary Clinton tried, in 2016, to run as the competent, governing-ready candidate, next to Trump's evident unfitness for office. How did that work out?

The exit polls make it clear. Clinton's message actually got through. Sixty-one percent of the voters on Election Day thought Trump was unqualified for the presidency. But of those, 17 percent voted for him anyway and another 8 percent voted third party. That right there was enough for Clinton to lose.

Yes, perhaps the impeachment talk is all a bit impetuous. But can Democrats really survive another election in which they make "competence" the defining issue?