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Pelosi on the Election

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UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 01: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., arrive for a news conference in the Capitol’s Senate studio on budget negotiations, October 1, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Nancy Pelosi is a very effective House leader. She also is not great a national politics and tends to project her own most right-wing members onto the national stage as the voices the Democratic Party should follow. That leads to unfortunate incidents like this.

“What works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan,” Pelosi said at a roundtable of Bloomberg News reporters and editors on Friday. “What works in Michigan works in San Francisco — talking about workers’ rights and sharing prosperity.”

“Remember November,” she said. “You must win the Electoral College.”

Pelosi was careful not to back any one candidate in the party’s contentious presidential contest, but didn’t hold back when asked about which ideas should – and shouldn’t – form the party’s case to American voters. Or about her fears that candidates like Warren and Sanders are going down the wrong track by courting only fellow progressives – and not the middle-of-the-road voters Democrats need to win back from Trump.

“As a left-wing San Francisco liberal I can say to these people: What are you thinking?” Pelosi said. “You can ask the left — they’re unhappy with me for not being a socialist.”

Her call for caution is backed by the authority she carries as a giant of Democratic politics who rose from the left wing of the party to become the first female speaker of the House and has earned grudging praise from her foes for her skill as a legislator.

She spoke as polls show a significant tightening of the race with Warren edging up on Joe Biden at the top of the field. A New York Times/Siena College survey of Iowa Democrats released Friday showed the top four candidates — Warren, Sanders, Biden and Pete Buttigieg — all bunched up in a five-point spread at the top of the field.

The speaker’s concerns reflect those of many Democratic leaders and donors who believe that left-wing policies will alienate swing voters and lead to defeat.

Warren and Sanders are betting on a different theory — that voters who float between parties are less ideological and can be inspired to vote for candidates who represent bold new change in Washington.

Pelosi said Democrats should seek to build on Obamacare instead of pushing ahead with the more sweeping Medicare for All plan favored by Warren and Sanders that would create a government-run health insurance system and abolish private coverage.

One can debate what the best strategy is on healthcare. But what Pelosi is doing is undermining two of the top candidates in the field–the two candidates who she at least frames herself as being closest to–in order to promote the desires of her most moderate members. What she should be doing is staying out of this and calling for a broad-based debate, knowing that she has a lot of power to work with her various members based on what actually gets proposed after some Democrat wins. Cutting off the candidates who actually excite the most voters–and the most young voters especially–seems like very bad politics to me.

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