First it was her repeated admonitions that the GOP's tax cuts amounted to “crumbs” for the middle class — a talking point that has clearly given her Democratic colleagues agita because of its elitist overtones. “Language is important, and we have to be very careful that we don’t insult people by saying that the amount of money they get is crumbs,” one of them, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), told Politico. “We cannot be seen as patricians.”
Pelosi also recently reiterated that she will seek to become speaker again, despite the increasing number of Democrats running for office who say they wouldn't vote for her. “We will win. I will run for speaker,” she told the Boston Globe's editorial board last week. “I feel confident about it. And my members do, too.” That wasn't surprising — nobody thought Pelosi would stick around this long after losing the speakership only to retire once her party won back the majority -- but Pelosi's promise made that likelihood into a certainty and put further pressure on Democrats to pick a side.
And finally came Tuesday morning. Appearing at a Politico event, Pelosi was asked to respond to GOP talking points that a Speaker Pelosi would institute single-payer health care and “raise taxes” by moving to “roll back the tax cuts that they passed this year.” Pelosi's response: “The second part there is accurate.” So there is Pelosi — on video — appearing to confirm she would try to raise taxes if Democrats win back the majority.
The moment isn't quite as easily transferrable to GOP campaign ads as some might want it to be, given that the question was somewhat complex. And Pelosi may argue that her “that's accurate” comment was about rolling back certain tax cuts rather than "raise taxes." She added, “I do think we should revisit the tax legislation in … a bipartisan, transparent way.”
Her spokesman, Drew Hammill, pointed to Pelosi's previous comments looking to roll back specific aspects of the tax cuts while strengthening middle-class tax cuts: “Once again, Republicans are desperate to misrepresent any effort to roll back their debt-exploding tax giveaways for big corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent as ‘raising taxes’ on middle class families.” He noted the that GOP tax plan would eventually raise taxes on individuals when those tax cuts expire in a decade. (Congress may renew those cuts before then.)
But that nuanced position was, for a moment, set aside. Most any politician knows that when you are asked whether you want to “raise taxes,” the next word out of your mouth probably shouldn't be “yes.” You talk around it. You massage it. Republicans passed this bill partially in the hope that Democrats would be baited into running against tax cuts and for raising taxes, and Pelosi seems to be obliging them.
None of this is to say this is a fatal blow for Pelosi's hopes to become speaker. And she has certainly done her party plenty of good on that front, most notably with her fundraising. But Democrats need to win in red areas to take back the House, and she's striking a very different tone than the candidates in those areas.