Why Did Democrats Re-Hire Nancy Pelosi?

After a landslide defeat and increasing unpopularity, Pelosi retains her leadership position

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Despite taking a "shellacking" at the polls on Nov. 2, Democrats decided to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader in the House. In a six-hour closed-door meeting on Wednesday, Pelosi overcame a challenge from North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, winning 150 votes to Shuler's 43. Was keeping Pelosi in power a wise move for Democrats?

On November 2, Democrats lost a net of 61+ seats in the House (a handful of races are still too close to call), costing them the majority in that chamber, and Senate Democrats lost six seats. Pundits called it a Category 5 storm, a seismic change. The President labeled it a “shellacking.”

...They clearly didn't get the message... Nothing says change like electing the same people you just threw out. The Republican National Committee was so excited they changed the “Fire Pelosi” banner at their headquarters to “Hire Pelosi.”
  • She's Incredibly Unpopular, writes Nate Silver at The New York Times:
Ms. Pelosi is among the least popular politicians in America today — perhaps the single least popular one that maintains an active political role. I took an average of favorability scores for Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, and about a dozen other prominent politicians, including several Republican candidates for President and some past presidential and vice presidential nominees.

The average score for Ms. Pelosi was 30 percent favorable and 55 percent unfavorable, giving her a net favorability rating of negative-25. This was the worst score of any politician in the study by some margin. Others with substantially net negative scores included Dick Cheney (-17), Harry Reid (-16), Sarah Palin (-14), Newt Gingrich (-10) and George W. Bush (-9; his numbers have improved some), but Ms. Pelosi’s scores were somewhat worse over all.

Many congressional liberals expect Obama to try a latter-day version of Bill Clinton's "triangulation" strategy from the 1990s, in which he positioned himself as the sensible center between congressional Democrats and Republicans. Congressional Democrats fear that Obama may likewise be tempted to cut some deals with Republicans on the budget or other issues.

So they want Pelosi as an unabashedly partisan advocate for congressional Democrats, making sure that Obama knows he will have hell to pay from her if he bends on important principles or is seen putting his own reelection interests in 2012 above the interests of House Democrats.
  • Are You Kidding? That Doesn't Make Any Sense, counters Allahpundit at Hot Air:
Even if it were true that there was a meaningful difference between The One’s agenda and Madam Speaker’s, having Pelosi as a counterweight to Obama actually makes it easier for him to tack right, not harder. Sure, the lefty base loves her — just feast your eyes on this — but who cares? They’ll turn out for Obama next cycle anyway, and in the meantime, whenever she challenges him on policy, he can point to her for the benefit of independents and say, “See? How can I be a liberal if Nancy Pelosi’s angry with me?” The One, ironically, may be the only lefty in America who benefits from today’s caucus election, simply because he’s the only one who might be able to turn Pelosi’s bitter political toxicity to his advantage.
  • Pelosi Can Be Successful, writes John Nichols at The Nation. He explains how:

Pelosi needs to signal that she understands why Democrats lost and do much more to frame out a winning agenda for the party. To do this, she must get beyond bumper slogans and talking points.

She needs to use the bully pulpit that is hers for the remainder of her speakership to frame the Democratic agenda that President Obama is either too overwhelmed or too compromised to advance. That does not mean that she has to attack or diminish Obama, but she does need to distinguish herself and the House Democratic Caucus from the White House. There has to be some sense of why it matters to maintain the mission of the caucus as Democrats move from majority to minority status. Above all, she must establish that House Democrats are united around a set of principles for which they are willing to fight—aggressively and effectively.
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