OPINION: Nancy Pelosi’s battle against the GOP politics of personal destruction
© Greg Nash

First the GOP, aided by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, played the politics of personal destruction to foment hatred against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSaagar Enjeti: Tuesday's Democratic debate already 'rigged' against Gabbard, Sanders Ilhan Omar raises .1 million in third quarter Bloomberg rethinking running for president: report MORE. Now the GOP, trapped by its tie to the most unpopular new president in history, is waging a campaign of personal destruction against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

One might think, not without reason, that there is a touch of sexism in these hyper-partisan, hyper-personal assaults against the former secretary of State who would have been the first woman president, and the leader of House Democrats who has already been the first woman Speaker of the House. At the same time, after America chose the first black president, who has the middle name "Hussein," Republicans who promote the politics of personal destruction against Pelosi and Clinton supported or tolerated attacks against the Christianity, patriotism and American citizenship of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama praises marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei for 'remarkable examples of humanity's ability' Each of us has a role in preventing veteran suicide Why calls for impeachment have become commonplace MORE.

With personal Republican attacks against Pelosi now reaching a fever pitch, and with some House Democrats whom I have great respect for adding their public criticism of Pelosi, which only helps Republicans keep control of the House, let’s put matters in perspective.

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Pelosi was an outstanding Speaker when she held the most powerful office in Congress. She was brilliant steering Democrats to control in 2006 and performed superbly as Speaker.

While Pelosi is one of the smartest and toughest inside players in Congress, she has not acted effectively to improve her public image and has resisted calls to substantially widen the circle of highest-level Democratic leadership in the caucus.

While some of the Democratic criticism of Pelosi has merit, those Democrats running to the media to criticize her only play into the hands of Republicans running hate campaigns against the Democratic leader. They make it harder for Democrats to achieve the urgent mission of regaining control of the House, and would be well-advised to keep their concerns behind the scenes.

Let’s consider what actually happened in the 2017 special elections, which were a setback for Democrats, but which also suggest, based on the pure data of voting results, that Democrats have a strong chance of regaining the House.

As I wrote in my column this week titled "Dems Madder than hell," it was political malpractice for national Democrats to offer virtually zero support for Democratic special election candidates in Montana and South Carolina, both of whom had a chance to win. It was also political malpractice for Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in Georgia, to pretend the election was about local issues and not about creating a check and balance against the abuses of President Trump.

Some Republicans, who enjoy giving bad advice to Democrats, falsely claim that the special election in Georgia suggests the failure of the "far left" or "left wing." The fact is, when Georgians voted this week there was no far left, left wing or even liberal candidate on the ballot. Ossoff was not a progressive or liberal candidate. He ran as a mushy and conventional centrist who never even offered a direct challenge to the most unpopular new president in American history.

Let’s be clear about what happened all of the special elections this year. The Democratic candidates in 2017 special elections ran very far ahead of the Democratic candidates in those districts in 2016.

The question in the 2018 midterms is not which party wins but how many seats House Democrats gain and whether they gain enough to retake control, which special election results suggest is very possible.

Even with the failure of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to offer any support to the Democratic candidate in a highly conservative deep red district in South Carolina, the Democrat almost won!!

Democrats should not sugarcoat the failure of national Democrats to support Democratic candidates in three special elections. They need leaders who learn from mistakes, not spinmeisters who pretend they did not happen or Democratic members who criticize Democratic leaders in the media.

The special election results do provide much good news for Democrats and bad news for Republicans. Every Democrat in every special election ran far ahead of the party's candidates in 2016, and every Republican in every special election ran far behind the GOP candidates in 2016.

If we consider the pure math of Democratic outperformance and Republican underperformance in every special election, the number of House Republicans who could lose in 2018 totals well above 50. If Democratic outperformance in 2017 is repeated in 2018, House Democrats have a strong chance of regaining control.

The issues, as well as the numbers, offer strong prospects for Democrats in 2018. The facts that President Trump is now under sustained investigation by a special counsel that could well result in indictments, faces multiple lawsuits over conflicts of interests and possible violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, and suffers from intense scrutiny by the free press the president calls an enemy of the people, guarantee a negative news flow plaguing Republicans that will continue indefinitely.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor's race as Trump urges GOP support Trump urges Louisiana voters to back GOP in governor's race then 'enjoy the game' MORE (D-N.Y.) have skillfully outmaneuvered Republican leaders by mobilizing fierce opposition to the horrendous and ill-fated TrumpCare, RyanCare and McConnellCare healthcare travesties. This will not change. It augurs well for Democrats in 2018.

The fact that the Republican president was the candidate favored by the Russian dictator attacking American democracy creates a huge opening for Democratic gains among red state voters concerned about defending national security.

Republicans in Congress who are terrified by the prospect of being locked in an embrace of the stratospherically unpopular Trump will continue their war of personal destruction against Nancy Pelosi. But if all Democratic candidates in 2018 midterms outperform as well as all Democratic candidates in 2017 special elections, the GOP hate campaign against Pelosi may well be answered by the Democratic House that convenes in 2019.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.