“I’ve exploited it to the hilt,” she joked with reporters recently, adding, “We’ve got music, we’ve got streets, we’ve got bridges. Very immodest.”
The Pelosi celebration tour is the latest evidence that she remains an indomitable force in Democratic politics and unequaled in star power among House Democrats. At the same time the moment has also served to highlight the lack of any obvious heirs apparent to the 72-year-old Pelosi, who is now in her 10th year leading the caucus.
Pelosi, the first female speaker in history, won’t hear any talk of leaving. She remains focused what she calls the “Drive for 25,” the number of seats Democrats need to pick up in November for her to become the first person since the legendary Sam Rayburn, in 1955, to lose the speakership and reclaim it. Part of the reason she chose to publicly exploit this anniversary is the coincidental convergence of the length of her tenure and the number of seats she needs to make history again.
“Did I tell you it’s my 25th anniversary? Did I tell you it’s the same number, ‘Drive for 25,’ for control?” she told reporters Thursday. Taking back the House is an obvious long shot for Democrats, and Pelosi is still recovering from the lingering effects of a $70 million ad campaign by national Republicans in 2010 that demonized her in races across the country, leading to a historic 63-seat loss by Democrats in the midterms. After the drubbing, most members of her own caucus expected Pelosi to resign. She did not, and faced token opposition in her run for minority leader.
Internal rivals acknowledge, even now, that she is secure as head of her caucus and will become speaker if Democrats win the majority this November.
“If she wants to be, if she gets the breaks this fall, she will be speaker,” said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), the dean of the House and longest-serving congressman in history.
While she continues to be an unpopular figure among many Americans, Pelosi has receded somewhat from the spotlight that was so inescapable in 2010. This fall the Democrat that Republicans will most seek to undermine is President Obama.
In a special election Tuesday to replace former representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Republicans have used only a fleeting image of Pelosi and instead focus on linking Democratic candidate Ron Barber to the president.
As if to underscore her reputation for tirelessness, Pelosi left Washington on Friday for a week-long excursion along the Interstate 95 corridor in the Northeast, planning more than a half-dozen stops at fundraisers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.