In San Francisco, many support Pelosi and Democrats

The Washington Post's Philip Rucker journeys across America talking with voters to get to the heart of this volatile moment in American politics.
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 1, 2010; 11:46 AM

Seven days. Seven states. In the final week of the campaign, Philip Rucker makes a mad dash across America listening to what voters have to say.

SAN FRANCISCO - If this is supposed to be a wave election, ushering in newly emboldened Republican stars and pushing out to sea old Democratic stalwarts, then the wave clearly has not reached San Francisco. It seems this may be the last pocket of America that still loves Nancy Pelosi.

Across huge swaths of the country, the Democratic House speaker has been vilified in hotly contested congressional races, including in one just 50 miles east of here in California's Central Valley. Yet in her home town of San Francisco, Pelosi is as revered as ever, with the only whiff of disapproval of her in this overwhelmingly liberal coastal city being that she has not pursued a progressive enough agenda in Washington.

"I figure if everybody else hates her, I probably love her," said Steve Malik, 45, a systems administrator here. "We go on road trips, my wife and I, and we did one in the last half of September, and once you get away from the coast, things become very, very conservative. You see, 'Nancy Pelosi is evil,' 'Barack Obama is evil,' 'Democrats are the Nazi party.' "

In the frenetic final week of midterm campaigning, The Washington Post dashed across America - seven states in seven days - listening to what voters have to say about this volatile moment in American politics. In many corners of the country, from Florida's swing Interstate 4 corridor to a working-class Philadelphia suburb to a foreclosure-ravaged neighborhood outside of Las Vegas, voters were disillusioned, angry and frustrated. Over and over, they said they have lost faith in their government and their leaders, particularly Pelosi and President Obama.

Pelosi is such a divisive figure that some embattled House Democrats are actively running against her, and a few have said they would not support her as speaker again.

Yet here in San Francisco, which Pelosi has represented in the House since 1987, voters interviewed on Sunday at bustling Union Square seem a world away.

Stewart Brown was walking Newton, his Chihuahua pug, when asked whether he was a Democrat or a Republican.

"A Republican? I don't think there are any Republicans here," Brown, 37, an audio engineer, said, looking across the park. "There might be Republicans visiting. I met one, my residence manager, but he's the only one. But I've only lived here for about 10 years."

While voters in places like McKee, Ky., in the Appalachian foothills, lamented a government they believed was tilting dangerously toward socialism, Brown and other voters here said they wish Pelosi had pushed a more liberal agenda, such as including the public insurance option in this spring's health-care bill.

"Because of the vilification and strong opposition, she's having a tough time pushing the progressive agenda, an agenda that I think people here in San Francisco would like to see," Brown said.

He and others said the vilification of Pelosi from the right is unwarranted.

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