In her first month, Pelosi surges

In her first month, Pelosi surges
© Stefani Reynolds

Not long ago, Republicans chortled and Democrats ran scared when her name was mentioned. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump telling aides to look at potential spending cuts if he wins reelection: report Budget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony MORE (D-Calif.) was the GOP’s not-so-secret weapon—or so they thought.

In relative terms, she was never as unpopular as they believed. More often than not, Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.) and Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Ocasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller MORE (R-Wis.) were no better liked.


Nonetheless, Republicans had invested tens of millions of dollars in demonizing her before the last cycle even began, and they were convinced it was about to pay off. They made her a symbol of Democratic liberalism.

However, our own polling found that an attack citing her along with, say, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMatt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' What to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE, was no more effective than just naming Obama and Clinton. That is, the incremental effect of a Pelosi attack was zero.

Other polls confirmed that voters didn’t care much about candidates’ relationship with her.

Despite the data, the GOP was relentless in abusing her. She was ubiquitous in their attack ads, appearing in over a third by the spring. Republican ads even claimed Democrats who had pledged to vote against her, were actually supporting her.

She showed ‘em. Applying her boundless energy, her unrivaled political acumen and her intense focus, she won back the House.

Since then, Pelosi has demonstrated that she knows how to take on, and beat, a widely reviled president.

As a result, her popularity is surging even while her foes are stuck.

CNN’s latest poll found her favorable rating jumping 12 points since May of last year, while her unfavorables actually declined by 3 points.

Still, more Americans are unfavorable than favorable toward her, as with all legislative leaders.

But Pelosi moved from minus 19 —that is, 19 points more unfavorable than favorable — to minus 5.

She improved substantially, while her opponents remain mired in more negative territory. President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE is the same minus 12 now that he was last May. McConnell is also about the same minus 12 that he was earlier.

Pelosi did it not just by winning the day in November, but by winning just about every day since.

She’s consistently confounded her foes, and in particular, repeatedly outmaneuvered, outfoxed and outsmarted Trump.

It was Trump who brought the cameras into their Oval Office meeting, but it was Pelosi who made him look the fool.

When she postponed the State of the Union, Trump huffed and puffed and canceled her visit to our troops overseas. But then it was the president who folded to a hand Pelosi knew was stronger before she played it.

After 35 days of government shutdown, it was Trump who gave in without even a fig leaf for an achievement.

It’s Pelosi who can’t stop winning, while Trump just keeps on losing.

For this, she has emerged as a folk hero among Democrats.

Partly as a result of her effective leadership, the CNN poll finds Americans prefer that Democrats in Congress have more influence on the country’s direction than President Trump by an 11-point margin.

More important, her wins have increased her power over her caucus, while Trump’s failures and the regular revelations of his inability to function as president, have sapped his strength.

He’s getting weaker while she’s getting stronger at his expense.

Pelosi’s surging while Trump’s wallowing.

While Trump’s narcissism pervades his every move, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (D-N.Y.) were wise enough not to make it all about them, picking Stacey Abrams, an inspiring speaker, to deliver the Democratic response to the rescheduled State of the Union.

Looking forward, the public opposes the president’s plan to build his wall by declaring a national emergency.

And Pelosi may have a way to force every GOP senator to vote on the issue.

That’s just one more of the traps she’ll be springing on the GOP.

Republicans should be rueing the day they decided to make her a symbol.


Mellman is President of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years and as president of the American Association of Political Consultants.