Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is downplaying any role she played in Mark Sanford’s special election victory, saying the Republican's attacks on her reveal only that he had no ideas of his own to rely upon.
“Most of the time when somebody brings up a third party into an election, it shows the bankruptcy of their own ideas,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol Thursday. “It was always going to be a hard district.”
The district is solidly conservative, favoring Mitt Romney over President Obama by 18 points last November, and Sanford was initially the heavy favorite despite his past issues.
Last month, however, the race tightened considerably when Sanford was accused of trespassing in the home of his ex-wife, which caused the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to abandon the race.
Sanford responded with an aggressive campaign tour that featured several “debates” with a life-sized cardboard cutout of Pelosi. He said the prop was a fill-in for Colbert Busch, who agreed to only one of the four debates her Republican opponent requested.
“My opponent continues to run a stealth campaign, avoiding public appearances and refusing to commit to televised forums for the benefit of 1st district voters,” Sanford said at the time.
Choosing Pelosi as a prop was no random decision. While the San Francisco liberal is one of the most effective leaders in Congress, she's also among the most radioactive. A Gallup poll released last month found that she's the best known — and least liked — of the congressional leaders.
The NRCC hasn't overlooked those public sentiments. When Sanford's victory was announced, NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) issued a short statement of tepid praise that mentioned Sanford once and Pelosi twice.
"These results demonstrate just how devastating the policies of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are for House Democrats in 2014," Walden said. "Democrats spent more than $1 million trying to elect a candidate who was backed by the Democrat machine, but at the end of the day, running on the Obama-Pelosi ticket was just too toxic for Elizabeth Colbert Busch."
Pelosi, for her part, is dismissing the effectiveness of Sanford's campaign tactics, noting that Colbert Busch performed much better in the conservative district than was expected.
“I think it looked silly,” Pelosi said of Sanford's mock debates. “But nonetheless, again, she [Colbert Busch] did much better than even President Obama did in the district.”