In 2010, I helped lead the effort of the Republican National Committee’s “Fire Pelosi” campaign, launched the evening of the House vote on Obamacare that then-Speaker Pelosi pushed through with a one-vote margin. The campaign exceeded our expectations; we surpassed our fundraising goals by more than 400 percent, a much needed boost for a committee struggling to raise money, and led to the Fire Pelosi bus tour, a centerpiece for 117 successful political events in the 48 continental states.
Our campaign, however, rested on one key premise: Nancy Pelosi, we believed, had to go precisely because she was so effective. Had Speaker Pelosi not been able to get Obamacare through, our campaign had no rationale.
Had Democrats dumped Pelosi following the 2010 elections, that would have made sense: our efforts helped make Pelosi the face of a staggering 63-seat loss in the House. So surprised were we that Democrats did not throw her overboard following their loss of the House, that we altered our Fire Pelosi sign to read “Hire Pelosi.”
But this is a different world, politically, than eight years ago. Nancy Pelosi was again a key driver in this election, the top fundraiser for Democrats as they retook the House in an election that just so happens to have had a massive increase in both female voters and female candidates.
Democrats stayed with Pelosi for eight years, even as Republicans made an issue of her in congressional races across the country again this year. And while it is understandable why Republicans want to campaign and vote against Pelosi—she is a bankable commodity for the GOP—exactly why are are Democrats talking about dumping the most powerful woman in American political history, one with a successful track record of moving Democratic policy goals through the House, just after after she helped them reclaim the majority there?!
As Team Pelosi works to secure a majority and ensure there are no surprises on the House floor during the January speakership vote, there has been talk that she should announce she will serve only a single term as an essentially transitional speaker this time. Announcing such a move, however, would immediately mark her as a lame duck and kick off a two year campaign for the next Speakership.
Meanwhile the “Never Nancy” letter signed by a small group of House Democrats consists overwhelmingly of (a) members in safe seats and (b) men. This is not the look, politically, you want after some Democrats in tough seats maintained that they would not support Pelosi, and others have flipped, potentially causing further problems back in their Congressional districts. More, the letter fails to list any specifics for why they feel Pelosi should go, other than the need for “change.”
This suggests that, as of now, the votes to block Pelosi are not there even as Democrats, in a caucus eager for younger and more diverse leaders after a generation of waiting that led some potential leaders to leave the House, are running short on patience. This would be a strange moment, however, to lose the last of that patience.
Democrats have much to celebrate even as victories bring new challenges and questions. What happens to Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership is a first test, but one that could determine on day one the course of the Democratic majority.