The Washington Post

Why Nancy Pelosi stayed

Earlier today, we outlined why we thought Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) should step aside.

Turns out she had a different plan.

So, we listened to Pelosi's press conference and talked to some of the smartest Democratic strategists we know to figure out why she decided to stay on for another term as leader.  Here's what they told us.

* Because she can: As we wrote this morning, Pelosi's strength in the Democratic caucus is perhaps even greater than it was two or four years ago. Liberals revere her and they represent the dominant voice in the House Democratic caucus.  Pelosi knew that if she wanted the job, she could have it without a serious challenge -- and that was a too-enticing prospect to pass up.

* Because she sees a majority path in 2 years: Handicapping a party's chances of winning the House majority almost two years before the actual vote is a fool's errand. That said, there's no way that Pelosi would sign on for two more years if she thought her side was relegated to permanent (or semi permanent) minority status. While we continue to believe that Republican line-drawers in the 2010 redistricting process made Democrats path back to the majority in the near-term quite tough, Pelosi obviously sees that equation differently.

* Because she doesn't think anyone else can raise the money: Pelosi is, without question, the best fundraiser for Democrats in the House and, arguably, the second-best fundraiser in the party behind the President.  Pelosi won't ever say it herself -- she is incredibly resistant to talking about any sort of political process questions in public -- but she retains real concerns that if she stepped aside that the party would not have someone to collect the sort of cash Democrats need if they want to take the majority back.

* Because she was energized by the election results: While Democrats didn't take the House back, they knocked off enough Republican incumbents that when coupled with what happened at the presidential and Senate level convinces Pelosi that the country supports her side's agenda and that a majority in 2014 is not as far-fetched as many people believe.

* Because she believes this stuff: Unlike cynical political reporters (yes, we are pointing to ourselves), Pelosi allies insist that she is much more driven by her concerns for the country and its policies than any political calculations. And, with massive issues with huge long term implications for the county -- debt/spending, Social Security, Medicare -- looming, Pelosi simply couldn't find it in herself to walk away. ("We have work to do," she said at her press conference announcing her plans to stay on.)

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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Chris Cillizza · November 14, 2012

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