WASHINGTON >> A dozen or so House Democrats want Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to go after a dispiriting loss in a Georgia House election. They just don’t know how to make it happen.
“We can’t keep losing races and keep the same leadership in place. You have a baseball team that keeps losing year after year. At some point, the coach has got to go, right?” said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., today.
The frustrated Democrats met in Rice’s office a day earlier to discuss their options as they face long odds of knocking out the woman who has led the Democratic caucus for nearly 15 years from minority to majority and back, raised tens of millions of dollars and has had multiple legislative successes. Their action plan: Keep talking. Keep raising the concern that something needs to change within the ranks of the party’s leadership.
It’s about all they can do.
“Right now, what I’m pushing for is a conversation within the caucus,” Rice said.
A defiant Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she was “very confident” about the support that she had from fellow Democrats who now number 193. When it comes to her detractors, Pelosi said “my decision about how long I stay is not up to them.”
The main argument against Pelosi from her Democratic detractors is that more than 30 years in Washington and hundreds of millions of dollars in attack ads against her have taken their toll when it comes to public opinion. Millions were spent in Georgia with ads linking Pelosi to Jon Ossoff, who lost to Republican Karen Handel on Tuesday. They argue that Democratic candidates will have a better shot on Election Day if they’re not tied to Pelosi.
“The issue I think strategically is that Trump energizes their base and Leader Pelosi energizes their base,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who was unsuccessful last year in trying to unseat Pelosi.
Said Rice: “The Republican playbook has been very successful. It’s not fair. It’s not accurate in its attacks on our leader, but it’s effective. They keep winning and we keep losing.”
But it’s also clear that many Democrats in the House, if not the large majority, don’t see it that way. They say voters in Republican-leaning districts are motivated by more than a desire to stop Pelosi and Democrats need to work on developing a message that can win them over.
On that point, Ryan agreed that the Democrats need to focus less on President Donald Trump and more on economic issues.
“We should stop talking about Trump all the time, and Russia. People in Ohio don’t grab me about Russia at all when I’m home,” Ryan said.
Trump seems to enjoy the focus on Pelosi, taking another jab today after tweeting about her the day before.
“I’d like to keep her right where she is, because our record is extraordinary against her,” Trump said in a Fox News interview.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who also attended the meeting, said, “in every corner of our caucus, we’re concerned. And we have one goal: winning in 2018.”
Moulton is one of the House Democrats who has been most vocal in calling for a new generation of leadership. The Iraq war veteran endorsed eight veterans running for the House this week, and started a new national security task force with other young veterans within the Democratic caucus.
“Of course I’m open to a meeting” with Pelosi,” Moulton said. “We’re a family. We’re going to have those discussions.”
Pelosi said that would be fine with her.
“I love the arena. I thrive on competition, and I welcome the discussion,” she said.