Defiant House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she’s not going anywhere, brushing back complaints from rank-and-file Democrats that she has led them to political oblivion and insisting that whatever the election losses she has overseen, she is “worth the trouble.”
A series of losses in special congressional elections — including one that cost the party tens of millions of dollars in donations in a losing cause in Georgia this week — have sparked a new round of criticism for the Californian.
She has become an easy target for Republican candidates on the campaign trail, and some of her troops say they can’t recapture the House with her at the top.
But she said those dissenting voices are the minority and the number of election losses this year is a good sign.
“I feel very confident in the support I have in the caucus,” she told reporters on Capitol Hill, mounting a stiff defense of her 15 years at the helm of her party caucus.
“I’m a master legislator, I am a strategic, politically astute leader, my leadership is recognized by many around the country, and that is why I’m able to attract the support that I do, which is essential to our election, sad to say,” she said.
She added that she is one of the party’s top fundraisers, trailing only the Clintons and former President Barack Obama.
In her time as leader, Democrats suffered losses in 2004 and celebrated massive victories in 2006 and 2008, propelling her to two terms as speaker of the House — the highest political role of any woman in U.S. history. But she then oversaw a steady decline. Democrats lost their House majority after the 2010 elections and sank to their lowest point in nearly a century after the 2014 elections.
Republicans now hold a 242-193 majority in the House.
After the elections in November, Mrs. Pelsoi tamped down a rebellion in her party in part by agreeing to restructure the leadership team to highlight younger members.
But this week’s election losses renewed complaints.
The latest blow was Republican Karen Handel’s defeat of Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia in the most expensive congressional race in history. The Handel campaign and allied groups poured millions of dollars into television and radio ads linking Mr. Ossoff to Mrs. Pelosi.
Rep. Kathleen M. Rice of New York said Mrs. Pelosi has been a “great leader, but like every leader, in time immemorial, it’s time for people to know when to go.”
“And sometimes it’s hard to get people who are in power, who are used to that, to say, ‘You know what? I need to step back and do what’s best for this party,’” Ms. Rice said on CNN’s “New Day.” “I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi believes that she is the one that can lead this party. I happen to have a different opinion.”
Rep. Tim Ryan, the Ohio Democrat who challenged Mrs. Pelosi for the leader’s post after the November elections, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that it will be hard for Democrats to take back the House under Mrs. Pelosi.
“You see these commercials that tie these candidates to Leader Pelosi week in and week out in the last several months,” he said. “That still moves the needle.”
Mr. Trump also weighed in.
“I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P out,” the president said on Twitter, extending his wish to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “That would be very bad for the Republican Party - and please let Cryin’ Chuck stay!”
Mrs. Pelosi said she doubted Mr. Trump wrote the tweet himself, and she dismissed fears that attack ads aimed at her will sink fellow Democrats.
“I think I am worth the trouble, quite frankly,” she said.
She engineered the 2006 Democratic victories that won control of the House and is confident she can do it again next year. She said redistricting and “voter suppression” explain some of her party’s problems, but she insisted that Democrats must — and will — deliver a rallying message to voters.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, came to Mrs. Pelosi’s defense, saying she was the chief reason Obamacare passed Congress.
“Thank God she was leading the House of Representatives during the passage of that,” Mr. Perez said on ABC’s “The View.” “She has fought her entire career for fairness, for opportunity, for everyone.”