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Pelosi on Democratic candidates who denounce her: ‘Just win, baby’

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday morning that she wouldn’t object if the party’s swing-district candidates ran against her, as Republicans continued to make her the focus of millions of dollars in attack ads and messaging.

“If they have to do that to win the election, I’m all for winning,” Pelosi (Calif.) said of the Democrats who oppose her for speaker of the House in the event that their party reclaims the chamber.

Republicans, she said, had continued to attack her despite evidence that midterm voters weren’t particularly focused on who led the Democratic Party. At a breakfast sponsored by Politico’s Playbook newsletter, Pelosi ticked through polling numbers from the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District — where Conor Lamb’s victory gave Democrats a burst of confidence — noting that 43 percent of voters were focused on health care and a “single-digit” percentage were focused on her.

“Just win, baby,” Pelosi said. “I have made some very powerful enemies. They don’t say we’re against her because she passed health-care reform, or because she took on Wall Street. They say she’s San Francisco. Yes. She’s liberal. Yes. She’s pro-LGBT. Yes. You will be, too. It’s just a matter of time.”

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At other points over a 45-minute discussion, Pelosi expressed frustration over how the party’s messaging was not breaking through. She made no mention of the scandals swirling around the Trump administration, focusing instead on how Democrats would run on “better jobs and better wages.” Issues such as infrastructure spending and the status of immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children were achievable before the election, she said; if they were left undone, Democrats would run on them.

When one questioner asked about Democrats who sought to impeach President Trump, Pelosi called it “a distraction” and criticized “all these shows that only talk about the president and the court and the this and the that.” (At every weekly news conference since March, Pelosi has been asked about impeachment.)

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“Impeachment, to me, is a divisive issue, unless there’s something as conclusive as what we saw in Watergate. That was inevitable. That was bipartisan,” Pelosi said. “You can talk about it in your districts. In my district, it’s a very popular issue. But it takes attention away from the connection we need to make to people about their economic security.”

Democrats on the ballot in today’s primaries — in Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and West Virginia — have similarly stayed away from discussions of Trump and focused on jobs and health care. In West Virginia’s 3rd District, where state Sen. Richard Ojeda is seen as the Democrats’ best hope of reversing the party’s decline, TV ads have focused on teachers’ unions and their fight to increase wages.

In Indiana’s 2nd District, health-care executive Mel Hall has run almost entirely on the issue of rising health-care costs — an issue Democrats expect to seize as insurers raise premiums, citing the Trump administration’s moves as the major reason.

In North Carolina’s 13th District, philanthropist Kathy Manning has run biographical ads about her work to help families patch their budgets during the 2008-2009 recession.

And in Ohio’s 1st District, candidate Aftab Pureval has turned his attention to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, challenging Rep. Steve Chabot (R) to a debate on the merits of the law.