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Nancy Pelosi Stays - Washington Reacts

Nancy Pelosi

hide captionHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Some reaction to Friday's big political news that Speaker Nancy Pelosi intends to run for Democratic minority leader in the new Republican-controlled House.

Ron Bonjean, Republican strategist and former GOP adviser on Capitol Hill:

“This would be the best option if Pelosi became Minority Leader because she is symbolic of the left-wing policies such as health care, cap-and-trade and the stimulus package that caused massive Democratic losses.   Republicans would continue to use the opportunity to contrast their economic growth agenda with Pelosi’s liberal partisan leadership.”

Chris Lehane, Democratic strategist, worked in Clinton White House, press secretary for Al Gore's 2000 presidential run:

(Lehane notes that though the Democratic House caucus is smaller, it's also now more progressive, and that Pelosi wouldn't do this without having a good sense of the numbers)

"Spend 30 seconds with Nancy Pelosi and you know she's a fighter. You don't get where she is, as a woman, without being a pretty tough cookie. Boehner faces someone who has been enormously effective, and someone who is as good a vote counter as there is in modern politics. The shellacking doesn't fall on her - she's not in charge of the brand, especially when the party has control of the White House."

Kevin Madden, GOP strategist and former Boehner spokesman:

"An out-of-step and liberal Democratic caucus reduced to a minority by the voters just got themselves an out-of-step and liberal minority leader in Nancy Pelosi. Oddly enough it makes perfect sense. It also provides Republicans the perfect opportunity to draw favorable contrasts on the issues most important to voters now and going forward.

Karen Finney, Democratic strategist who worked for Howard Dean when he was head of the Democratic National Committee:

"There are a number of websites that have cropped up saying thank you, Mrs. Speaker. She is very popular with the base of our party, and we need that right now. One of the things people felt very strongly about was that she was a very effective speaker and presided over a very productive Congress. Some members may say that some votes cost them, but she got it done. We also have fewer women in this coming Congress. It's good to see a strong, smart, capable, and effective woman in leadership. She's been in the minority and the majority - she knows how to hold the caucus together. There's going to have to be some compromise, but she's the right person to be there to make it happen. She has such a stature in the Democratic Party, and that will mean that Boehner will have to treat her likewise. I also hope that Democrats don't let her be so demonized by the right - we need to take some blame for letting that happen."

Norman Ornstein, Congress and politics expert at the American Enterprise Institute:

"I can't say that it surprises me. Pelosi's a fighter. Stepping down also would have suggested this is her fault, which she does not believe. She's a very strong family person, she cares about her grandchildren, but she's very, very much wrapped up in this job, her career and her kids and her husband are very supportive of that.

I think that while there's no doubt that some of her members are not happy about this - including the remaining Blue Dogs, the larger sentiment is: 'We know what these Republicans are like. We know how they dealt with us. We know the 'take no prisoners' attitude and we know that when they say 'It's time to cooperate' it means 'It's time to capitulate.'

Facing that with a tough, tough fighter is something they'd rather have. Boehner is thinking abut this with mixed emotions. One part of it is that Republicans can use Pelosi as a foil. Another part is that he doesn't really don't get along with her, so it's going to make a lot of things difficult.

Third, she is relentless, smart and knows how to keep her troops together and this is going to make his life harder. I don't see it as selfish on her part. The fact is she's putting herself out there and that doesn’t mean her colleagues have to vote for her."

In the final analysis, Ornstein says, "Both parties have very tricky tasks ahead. Voters want a change, but mostly what they want is for things to work.

The George Will, Charles Krauthammer idea that this is all about a rejection of liberalism doesn't fit reality. We have some people who are strongly conservative, some strongly progressive but the center still holds. Pelosi knows what it means to be a minority leader - she's done this before, and she knows how to do it."

Peter Fenn of Fenn Communications and a longtime Democratic activist and adviser:

"There was an assumption out there on the part of a lot of people that she would step down. But this pendulum ain't done swinging. Her notion is that these issues are too important that she doesn't want to leave the field of battle. Who knows? In two years this could swing back. Obviously she canvassed a lot of people and she knows how to count votes. The American people are not done yet in expressing their frustration and their anger and their concern. The real question for Boehner is not how to deal with Democrats, but with his own caucus, and the Tea Party folks, Michelle Bachmann. Voters care about getting things done. They want action. They're pragmatic. If Boehner and Republicans want to play games, repeal health care law, let them - it's not happening. Democrats need to get down to business: jobs, education, lessening dependence on foreign oil. She played it right on the health care bill and she's not ready to leave."

Some Democrats privately fretted over Pelosi's decision. Said one Democratic strategist, a former Clinton administration official: "This is a disaster—unless it is a face saving move and she is headed for an ambassadorial appointment—the GOP so dominated the message and so effectively demonized her that she is a permanent liability—time to say thank you for playing."

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