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Dumping Nancy Pelosi For Electoral Reasons Would Be Really Stupid

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President-elect Barack Obama, flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. meets with Congressional Republican and Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

As a follow-up to my recent post, Harry Enten notes that there’s no reason to believe that Nancy Pelosi being minority leader will have any effect on the midterm elections:

Republicans, of course, want to make Pelosi an issue in order to try and counterbalance Trump’s own bad numbers. If this poll is correct, it simply isn’t working.

Voters say Trump is far more important to their vote than Pelosi. Twice the percentage of voters (68%) say Trump is extremely or very important than say the same about Pelosi (34%). When you break it down by party, majorities of Democrats (70%), Republicans (82%) and independents (58%) say that the Trump factor is extremely or very important to their vote this November.

The CNN polling is not surprising given the history of recent midterms. As I pointed out in February, opinions of opposition party leaders simply have not correlated with midterm results. If they did, it’s hard to imagine Newt Gingrich’s Republican Party winning control of the House in 1994 or John Boehner’s Republican Party holding onto control in 2014. Both had negative popularity ratings heading into those midterm elections, and it didn’t help the Democratic president’s party (Bill Clinton in 1994 and Barack Obama in 2014).

The president’s low approval ratings in both 1994 and 2014 ended up mattering a lot more than the opposition party leader’s low ratings. Given CNN’s new polling data on Pelosi and Trump and the Democrats’ consistent lead on the generic congressional ballot (including an 11 percentage point lead in CNN’s latest poll), it seems likely that will be the case in 2018 again.

The narrative that running lots of ads with Pelosi in them was some kind of devastatingly effective Republican tactic really took off after the somewhat disappointing results in GA-6. And it somehow has continued despite the fact that 1)Republicans keep using Pelosi in their ads and 2)keep getting disastrous results. Not because of their focus on Pelosi, of course, but because for all intents and purposes nobody votes based on the popularity of the House minority leader.

If there’s someone who 1)could plausibly be elected Speaker and 2)would be better at the job if Dems take the House then, fine, replace her. (SPOILER: there pretty clearly isn’t.) But to do it for electoral reasons would be idiotic, and in most cases it doesn’t make sense for Democratic candidates to say that they won’t vote for her as leader, since it won’t matter to the outcome of the election and most of them almost certainly will anyway.

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