What's Nancy Pelosi doing right?
While the other top congressional leaders are fading, the House minority leader and former speaker is on the rise, according to the latest Quinnipiac University Thermometer poll, which shows the California Democrat is gaining popularity as one of the nation's top political figures.
The "warmth rating" for Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, has tumbled from more than 51 in 2011 to less than 37 since he ascended to the top House job. The rating for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has slid 1 point, and the number for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has dropped more than 7 points.
Mrs. Pelosi defies the trend, rising from 32.9 to 38.4 and going from last to first among the four congressional leaders.
"She's keeping her head down and her caucus focused as the House Republicans self-destruct before our eyes," said Jim Manley, a senior director at Quinn Gillespie & Associates who was a longtime aide to top Senate Democrats.
Quinnipiac's poll, which asks voters to rate politicians on a scale of zero to 100 based on how warm they feel toward the person, underscores the self-destruction.
Mr. Boehner's slide of more than 14 points eclipses the combined drops for Mr. Reid, from 34.8 to 33.8, and Mr. McConnell, from 45.2 to 37.5.
The low ratings are nothing new. Poll after poll shows voters unhappy with Congress.
Indeed, Congress left town last week for a five-week summer recess having accomplished little in July.
Despite being in session for more than 100 hours during the July work period, the Senate passed just one of its own bills, though it did clear eight House bills.
The House didn't pass a single Senate bill in July but cleared 26 of its own.
House Democrats' campaign arm began running radio ads this week blasting their Republican counterparts for leaving for "a five-week taxpayer-funded vacation."
Mrs. Pelosi remains the best-known of the congressional leaders — almost all voters had an opinion about her — but also the most polarizing.
While Democrats give her a 64.2 percent warmth rating, the best among the four leaders, self-identified Republicans score her at 19.8, the lowest of the group.
Mr. Obama tops all of the congressional leaders at 47.6 percent, though that, too, is a tumble from the lofty 56.5 he notched two years ago, as he was in the middle of sparring with Mr. Boehner over spending.
Those spending battles and other fights over health care, debt and the extent of Mr. Obama's powers appear to have taken a toll on Mr. Boehner. In March 2011, he was less known but more liked. Now, three-quarters of those surveyed know who he is, and have turned more sour.
The top two names of the 22 surveyed by Quinnipiac, which specializes in political polling, were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at 53.1 and 52.1 respectively.
"Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's score is not surprising given her lengthy political career and especially strong support among Democrats and women," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "But Gov. Christopher Christie's rating is impressive given that his experience — less than four years as governor — pales compared to Mrs. Clinton's resume."
Mr. Brown said they were the only two of the 22 names surveyed that scored above 50, highlighting the lack of faith in the nation's top politicians.
Mr. Christie, whom many Republicans expect to run for president in 2016, does well across the political spectrum. Among independents, he was the most popular.
Several others who might take a look at the 2016 primary race top Mr. Christie among Republicans. They include Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who scores a 68.7 warmth rating, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 65.6 and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 65.1. Mr. Christie is eighth at 59.8 among Republicans, which is better than Mr. McConnell, Mr. Boehner, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rep. Peter T. King, a New York Republican who has hinted that he may consider a presidential run.
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