More House Democrats stressing independence from Pelosi, Obama

In these midterm campaign ads posted on YouTube, come Democrats and Republican interest groups make negative reference to voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
By Paul Kane and Karen Tumulty
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 19, 2010; 8:57 PM

MCGREGOR, TEXAS - Little more than two years after she touted him for the vice presidential nomination, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cannot count on the support of Rep. Chet Edwards.

Edwards, a conservative Democrat trying win an 11th term representing this area southwest of Dallas, said he has not made up his mind whether he would support Pelosi (D-Calif.) for another term as speaker, as he comes under fire back home for his close ties to the Democratic leader.

"No, I've made no commitments for speaker. Until we see the outcome of this election, I don't even know who will be running for speaker," Edwards said in an interview while campaigning Saturday in this small town of 5,000 southwest of Waco.

Democrats from a number of states, including Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, are running away from Pelosi in a harsh political climate. Distancing one's self from the speaker is nothing new for many Democrats, including Edwards, but the number of incumbents criticizing the party House leader is larger than it has been in past election cycles - and the volume of their criticism is louder.

More than a few Democrats have said they are wavering on supporting Pelosi as their leader next year. At least four House Democrats are running ads stating their opposition to the speaker's agenda, and one Democrat running in Tennessee called for her resignation.

Edwards, rated by independent political analysts as one of the 10 Democrats whose seat is most endangered, goes further than most of his colleagues. He openly critiques his party's entire agenda, saying its leaders "overreached" after the 2008 elections.

Now that the Democratic majority hangs in the balance, so, too, does Pelosi's hold on power. No Democrat is challenging Pelosi for speaker - or minority leader, should the party lose power - and there is no plan underway for a leadership succession if she were to resign after an electoral rout.

(CILLIZA: Voters turn backs on both parties)

Publicly and privately, Pelosi rejects any talk of losing the majority. Instead, she is focusing on a furious fundraising effort this fall to ensure that the very lawmakers openly running away from her have enough campaign cash to win reelection.

"We are going to win in November, so I don't even accept your first question or premise and all the rest of that," she said at her weekly news conference, when asked about potentially giving up power.

She added that criticism comes with the territory, and that she does not fear the attacks from either end of the political spectrum.

"To tell you the honest truth, I don't really even have the time to pay attention to what they are saying about me," she said. "We like the contest. So up the ante if you wish; we're going to be victorious come November."

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