The GOP set the stage last week, saying she needed to be “put in her place” (presumably the kitchen?). Typical of the genre is an ad targeting Rep. Michael Arcuri in New York’s 24th congressional district, which laments that “Arcuri already votes with Pelosi 90 percent of the time.” The top “story” Monday at the website of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) was a petition drive to “fire Pelosi.” And of course, Republicans love to remind everyone that Pelosi is a “San Francisco liberal.”
None of this is new. When Pelosi took the helm of the House Democrats following the party’s defeat in the 2002 midterms, conservative commentator Cal Thomas gloated that Pelosi’s promotion gave Republicans “two major victories in less than 10 days.” The conservative National Review predicted that Pelosi would guarantee Republican majorities “in both the near term and the long run.”
Security issues dominated the 2004 cycle, but by the time 2006 rolled around, Republicans were deeply engaged once again in their Pelosi-demonization efforts, warning voters a Democratic victory would mean — horrors! — a Speaker Pelosi.
The NRCC labeled Democratic candidates in close districts the “hand-picked political pawns of Nancy Pelosi.” Republican Party chief Ken Mehlman proclaimed that Pelosi would “weaken America.” A Republican challenger in South Carolina claimed Pelosi was a “liberal elite who want[s] warped faithless values” imposed on his state. In Indiana, the state Republican Party chairman proclaimed that Pelosi didn’t represent “Hoosier values” and warned, “Don’t forget that a vote for the Democrats is a vote to give San Francisco more power.”
The media was more than happy to join in. In North Carolina, CNN’s Monica Crowley asked Democrat Heath Shuler point-blank, “Are you a Nancy Pelosi Democrat?”
Curiously, no one asked GOP candidates whether they were going to be “Tom DeLay Republicans.”
Republicans may have been terrified by the prospects of a “Speaker Pelosi,” but voters thought it was a grand idea. Not only did Democrats pick up seats that year, they took over the chamber with a 60-seat swing in the balance of power (including all three targeted seats in Indiana).
The Pelosi-bashing continued between cycles, reaching fever pitch in three hard-fought special elections — in Louisiana, in Mississippi and in the district of dethroned Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) — all won by the Democrats. The 2008 election offered more proof of the GOP’s bankrupt Pelosi-hate strategy. Republicans lost another 21 seats.
Yet here we are again, with an intellectually bereft Republican Party regurgitating the same strategy that failed two cycles in a row. Fact is, Pelosi does suffer from poor approval ratings. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal numbers have her at 27 percent positive and 44 percent negative, while last week’s Research 2000 numbers for Daily Kos had her at 35 percent favorable, 57 percent unfavorable.
Sounds bad, but Republican House leader John BoehnerJohn BoehnerNunes rebuffs calls for recusal Wounded Ryan faces new battle Bottom Line MORE (Ohio) would kill for such numbers. While other media pollsters ignore BoehnerJohn BoehnerNunes rebuffs calls for recusal Wounded Ryan faces new battle Bottom Line MORE (they had no such qualms polling Pelosi when she was minority leader), Daily Kos hasn’t. In last week’s edition of our Research 2000 weekly poll, Boehner’s favorability rating was a paltry 14 percent, compared to 61 percent holding an unfavorable view.
The Pelosi strategy is doomed to fail yet again. And with Boehner’s rating, the GOP better pray the election doesn’t become a referendum on House leadership options, because the only thing more unpopular with the public than congressional Republicans is their leader.
Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos.