House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was the focus of Democratic ire Wednesday after Georgia voters — deluged by ads linking Pelosi to Democratic House candidate Jon Ossof — gave Republicans a victory in a special election perceived by many as a referendum on Washington.
Despite securing millions in contributions from Democrats across the country, Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent. Several congressional Democrats indicated Wednesday they blame their own leaders for the defeat.
“We need leadership change,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y. “It’s time for Nancy Pelosi to go, and the entire leadership team.”
“I think you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top,” said Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas. “Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons.”
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who challenged Pelosi for her minority leadership post, lamented that the Democratic brand “is toxic and damaged.”
Pelosi, 77, who has led House Democrats since 2003, indicated no plans to step down.
“I respect the comments of some in our caucus, but right now we must be unified in order to defeat Trumpcare,” she said in a written statement.
During a Wednesday caucus, Pelosi urged House Democrats not to overreact to the results of the Georgia election.
“It was probably one of the more disturbing caucus meetings that I’ve ever been in. And everyone pretty much sat in silence and I’d like to think that they were as shocked as I was that they were hearing the spin that was being put on this loss,” Rice said.
Some analysts said Pelosi’s time as a leader is nearing its end.
“A lot of Democrats are tired of her and tired of defending her,” said political analyst Larry Sabato. “When you’re as controversial as Pelosi is, you become pretty well-known and universally disliked. The image of her for the Democrats is just awful.”
Sabato, who heads the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said several senior Democrats contacted him about the Georgia race.
“One called, one emailed, saying ‘We want her out,’” he said.
“The perception of Democratic leadership is so bad. It’s so bad that it gets people out of their homes to go vote,” Democratic political consultant Lachlan McIntosh said. “We gotta address it or we’re going to continue to lose.”
Republicans, however, are in no hurry to see Pelosi go.
“She consistently polls very unfavorable. I think in this instance, it had a motivating effect for our voters on the turnout front,” said John Rogers, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Congressional Leadership Fund director Corry Bliss said he takes time every morning “to be thankful that the Republican Party still has Nancy Pelosi because Nancy Pelosi is absolutely toxic.”
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