‘Do you think I would make myself a lame duck right here over this double-espresso?’
(Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times) Democrats have yet to win a House majority, and Nancy Pelosi’s return as speaker is by no means certain, but already she has one eye on the exits.
“I see myself as a transitional figure,” Pelosi said Thursday in a downtown Miami cafe.
The San Francisco Democrat professed utmost confidence that, should Democrats take control of the chamber on Nov. 6, she will again assume the top leadership position.
But no matter how much her colleagues may beg, the 78-year-old said she plans to remain party leader only until the next election. “I have things to do. Books to write; places to go; grandchildren, first and foremost, to love.”
Then again, maybe not.
Pelosi hastened to add she was not imposing a limit on her presumptive tenure as speaker. “Do you think I would make myself a lame duck right here over this double-espresso?” she said, with a raised eyebrow and a laugh.
From Kooky Comments to Heated Rhetoric
By implicitly limiting her time as speaker, Pelosi may hope to pre-emptively ease the pressure on her to stand aside, signaling her willingness for a new and younger generation of leaders to take over sooner rather than later.
But as questions of her mental fitness have accompanied a litany of bizarre behavior and freewheeling comments in recent years, Pelosi’s most recent headlines may not bring peace of mind to fellow Democrats facing tight races in a must-win election.
It remained unclear on Friday if Pelosi would see any backlash for remarks she made saying that voters who opposed Democrats would need to accept “collateral damage.” Other prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder, have faced considerable fallout and condemnation for comments that seemed to elevate the heated rhetoric and encourage partisan violence among their base.
Trump was stumping for the congressman, currently up for re-election, who was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management and $375 in fines for the misdemeanor assault. Gianforte is currently leading by 9 percent in the polls, according to RealClearPolitics.
Grooming a Successor
Pelosi has quietly been grooming potential successors, among them Rep. Adam Schiff of California. Although she said she would be delighted to hand the speaker’s gavel to another woman—”Oh, yeah!” she exclaimed—she has no plans to try to force a choice.
“Whoever is next is not up to me,” she said. “If I were saying, ‘I want so-and-so to be my successor,’ that’s not right.”
Pelosi made history in January 2007 when she became the first female speaker in history, a post she relinquished four years later after Republicans seized control of the House in a 2010 midterm landslide.
She has held the job of House minority leader ever since, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for Democrats but also serving as a favorite GOP foil. This election cycle alone Pelosi has appeared in tens of thousands of ads, the overwhelming majority of them negative.
In June, a left-wing group called the Young Turks went so far as to ask if Pelosi may be an undercover Republican due to her effectiveness at mobilizing the conservative base.
Some Democrats—especially in competitive races—have sought to distance themselves from their congressional leader, whose liberal philosophy and San Francisco pedigree have made her Republican shorthand for out-of-touch, left-wing elitism. Dozens of House candidates have called for a change in the Democratic leadership or vowed not to support Pelosi’s return as speaker.
Still, she remains a prodigious fundraiser in the well-heeled Bay Area and, in certain blue-shaded parts of the country, a welcome guest. In just the most recent campaign-finance reporting period, Pelosi raised $34 million for Democrats, boosting her total since entering the House leadership in 2002 as minority whip to more than $700 million.
One Last Hurrah?
The vote for Democratic leadership will take place after Thanksgiving, allowing sufficient time to pass after the Nov. 6 election.
As yet, no serious rivals have emerged. However, liberal media outlets like the Huffington Post continue to express serious doubts about Pelosi’s ability to survive a leadership challenge.
For her part, Pelosi seems confident that she has the votes to remain speaker.
“I haven’t asked anyone for their support,” she said, later adding that doesn’t mean they haven’t told her she has their support.
Pelosi said she would have stepped aside as leader, she said, had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election.
But with no other woman at the table, Pelosi said, “it was the most urgent of all moments” to keep her seat alongside President Donald Trump, GOP leaders and the top Democrat in the Senate, New York’s Charles E. Schumer.
“I feel a very strong responsibility to stay in this office for at least the next two years while he’s president,” Pelosi said over that double-espresso. “And let’s hope it doesn’t go any longer than that for him.”
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.
(c)2018 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.