Pelosi says GOP field is not 'first string'

The top House Democrat dismissed the Republican presidential contenders Tuesday, saying they represent the "third tier" of the GOP and have no chance of unseating President Obama in November.

"This crowd that they have there, it's not exactly what you would call the first string of the Republican Party," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said during an interview hosted by Politico. "I think that they can do better than that."

Asked which Republicans would make better contenders, Pelosi demurred. "I would never say," she quipped.

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Still, the California Democrat suggested the current Republican field — which includes political veterans such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), long-time Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — poses a lesser threat to Democrats than the GOP's younger up-and-comers.

"You've got the third tier, and the second tier is younger," Pelosi said.

Pelosi focused her criticism most sharply on Romney, the front-runner leading up to Saturday's primary contest in South Carolina, arguing that his history of changing positions on key issues "doesn't instill confidence" among conservative voters.

"If the far right thought that Romney could win, they might be more enthusiastic about him," she said. "But they question what he stands for, and they don't think he's going to win, so what's the sell? 

"They don't think he's going to win in November, so they're like, 'Why should we compromise who we are?,' " Pelosi added. "Let's be who we want to be and get ready for four years from now … when it's a clean slate, [there's] no incumbent and we can start to get ready building our candidate."