Pelosi a target for GOP, and for Dems demanding change

Pelosi a target for GOP, and for Dems demanding change
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The impending departure of House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer MORE (R-Wis.) has sparked endless chatter and speculation about which Republican might succeed him. For the time being, anyway, there’s less swirl around who will lead the other team after November.

Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Overnight Health Care: Average daily COVID infections topped last summer's peak, CDC says | US reaches 70 percent vaccination goal a month after Biden's target | White House says CDC can't renew eviction ban Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban MORE, the Democratic leader, has headed her party in the House for more than 15 years, while Republican leaders came and went.

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Pelosi became House speaker in 2007, shattering the congressional glass ceiling to be not only the first woman speaker but the closest woman in history to the presidency in the line of succession. But she lost the speakership when Republicans swept the 2010 midterms.

 

When parties lose their majority, their speaker doesn’t usually get the rostrum when they retake it. The last to do so was the legendary Sam Rayburn, back in the mid-1950s.

Pelosi, according to her and her congressional allies, has unmatched political skills. Yet, from the get-go, she has been the poster child for attacks from Republican and conservative opponents. Not only has that not changed, it’s bigger, bolder and growing during the 2018 midterm elections.

USA Today reported last month that Pelosi has been featured in more than one-third of all Republican ads in House races in the early stages of the 2018 cycle. That compares to less than 10 percent two years ago.

Pelosi is an ideal opposition mascot for congressional Republicans. A San Francisco liberal, she’s become a fixture of Washington, D.C. That augers against the rising populist constituency, centered now with independent swing voters, that’s eager to get new leadership in Congress.

She’s also 78 years old and head of a triumvirate who are the same age. Many younger Democrats openly fret that a team in their late 70s, who have been in Congress for decades, doesn’t bode well in a year that they want to be marked by “change.”

As the leader of her party and its most important face and voice in Congress, Pelosi provides Republicans with a big target going into the 2018 congressional elections.

Her continuing ability to deliver both verbal and nonverbal messages that portray her and her party as elitist and out of touch have led to remarkably high negatives in national polls and painted a political bullseye on her.

A recent Wall Street Journal survey gave her an anemic 21 percent approval rating from voters, while 43 percent viewed her negatively.

The impact of any message is based on “3Vs”: the verbal (actual words that are spoken), the vocal (tone and overall sound of the message), and the visual (how the messenger’s body language translates). Nancy Pelosi hands the Republicans a caseload of ammunition with each of the “3Vs.”

Verbally, we can expect to hear many of her words repeated in Republican ads. After all, she has served up a smorgasbord of sound bites that are distasteful to moderate and swing voters, and that energize opposition conservatives and Republicans.

Leading that litany is her ill-advised assertion that four-figure employee bonuses handed out by many companies following the recent tax cuts were nothing more than “crumbs.” You’d have no trouble finding lots of folks in middle America willing to gobble up such crumbs, so look for those words to be repeated ad nauseam this fall.

Her vocal inflection doesn’t help, either. Too often her tone is negative and aloof. It isn’t the sound of soaring rhetoric that goes with a vision for the future that voters will rally around.

The visual aspect of communication always prevails, especially on television and other visual media. What people see tells them much more than what they hear.

The enduring image of a seated Pelosi looking like she’d just bitten into a lemon while others cheered economic success or American heroes during the President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE’s State of the Union address will be burned into the memory banks of voters in every swing-seat race.

This has given a lot of Republicans cause to believe that the losses they may endure this year will not be as extensive as predicted. It’s giving Democrats heartburn for the same reason.

Angst among rank-and-file Democrats over Pelosi’s political unpopularity and leadership style isn’t new. Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanHouse passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay Tim Ryan slams McCarthy for mocking Capitol physician, mask mandate Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (D-Ohio) took a third of the caucus in his long-shot 2016 run at Pelosi’s leadership post.

More recently, a number of prominent Democrats have become increasingly vocal in openly criticizing Pelosi and predicting her demise as leader in the next Congress.

In a recent special election in Pennsylvania, Democrat Conor Lamb brushed aside millions of dollars of ads depicting him as a puppet of Pelosi by simply saying that he won’t vote for her. Several other Democratic candidates have followed. Look for the number to swell.

“I think everyone’s watching what Conor Lamb’s doing, and I hope they’re taking notes,” observed Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonOvernight Defense: Senate panel adds B to Biden's defense budget | House passes bill to streamline visa process for Afghans who helped US | Pentagon confirms 7 Colombians arrested in Haiti leader's killing had US training Business, labor groups teaming in high-speed rail push Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (D-Mass.), a frequent Pelosi critic.

Democrats think they have the perfect foil in Donald Trump. Republicans have the same view of Nancy Pelosi. November may be a referendum on President Trump, but he won’t be on any ballot in January. Pelosi would still like to be.

This year is looking very much like the year of the woman, with record numbers of energized women running for office. Many no doubt will be successful. January may not bring the same fortune to Nancy Pelosi.

Charlie Gerow, first vice chairman of the American Conservative Union, has held national leadership positions in several Republican presidential campaigns. He began his career on the campaign staff of Ronald Reagan. A nationally recognized expert in strategic communications, he is CEO of Quantum Communications, a Pennsylvania-based media relations and issue advocacy firm.