House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is as loyal a fan of the San Francisco Giants as they come. It’s not uncommon for her to chat with reporters about going to games at AT&T Park or mention Giants legend Willie Mays at news conferences. A Baltimore native, Pelosi also doesn’t shy away from her affinity for the Baltimore Orioles. She frequently notes that her father, then-Baltimore Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro, was instrumental in luring the old St. Louis Browns to the Charm City in the early 1950s. D’Alesandro helped oversee the final construction of Memorial Stadium as the Browns became the Orioles.
But when it comes to elections, Pelosi’s sounding a lot more like a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan. Not quite the “wait 'till next year” refrain often heard on Waveland Avenue behind Wrigley Field. But, regarding her party's chances of a House takeover, it's more “wait 'till the year after next.”
Midterm elections hit in five weeks. But Pelosi already is looking beyond that.
“[Republicans'] days are numbered. I know that in two years, I know we’ll have a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “I’d like it to be in two months.”
So is 2014 off the table for Democrats? After all, virtually no political analyst gives Democrats any shot at picking up the necessary seats to control the House in the new Congress. There currently are 432 members with three vacancies. Republicans command 233 seats and Democrats hold 199.
Is the California Democrat conceding the House this November?
“No I’m not,” Pelosi replied. “I think we’ll do okay.”
The House and Senate were out of session this week, despite the original plan for them to meet. Most lawmakers were spread around the country campaigning. But there was a chunk of members who resurfaced in Washington for two key hearings: A House oversight committee hearing on failures at the Secret Service and a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi who is jailed in Mexico. Some members returned to Washington for fundraisers and other events, scheduled months ago – under the presumption that Congress would meet this week.
Pelosi used part of her time here to blast Republicans and scheduled a press conference on Oct. 1, the one-year anniversary of last autumn’s partial government shutdown.
It wasn’t that long ago when Democrats predicted the government shutdown would be as popular among voters as Steve Bartman at Wrigley Field. Polls still reflect the unpopularity of the shutdown and most voters blame Republicans. Democrats banked on the idea that they could paint GOPers as “extreme” and highlight mis-steps of the Tea Party.
The only problem is that last year’s mayhem isn’t boosting Democrats the way they hoped a year later. Certainly some Democratic candidates are reminding voters about the shutdown in ads and on the stump.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., is one of the most vulnerable Republicans this cycle. His remarks that he was willing to accept his salary during the partial shutdown because he has “a nice house and a kid in college” have put that contest on the map. But the shutdown has had little other impact.
Democrats highlight the fact that Republicans control the House and that the congressional approval rating is in the tank. Democrats definitely needed some sort of political elixir going into this campaign. The second midterm election for two-term presidents is historically a bloodbath for his party in Congress. But the shutdown’s not the magic bullet Democrats were hoping for.
“It’s just stunning the frivolity of how the Republicans treat the economy,” Pelosi said when launching her Wednesday press conference about last year's budget battle.
But not a single reporter queried the leader about the shutdown. They were soon off to the races about now-deposed Secret Service Director Julia Pierson and voting on an authorization to fight the Islamic State.
One journalist then asked Pelosi about GOP candidates using her image in TV ads this fall.
“Really?” Pelosi replied sarcastically, eliciting a chortle from the press corps. “They help me raise money every single day.”
She later quoted FDR saying “I take pride in my enemies” and added that Republicans using her in TV ads “shows the poverty of their ideas."
Still, Pelosi put her money on 2016.
“This fall it’s important for us to come as close to [218 seats] as possible,” Pelosi said.
That’s not quite what Pelosi was saying two weeks ago, just hours before Congress conducted its final votes before the November elections.
“I don’t think that anybody can tell you right now, today, this many weeks in advance, what the outcome of an election is. What the outcome will be,” Pelosi said. “The view from Washington is not an accurate one as to what goes on in the heartland and in the districts across our country. We’ve had a recent experience of not knowing what was going on 90 miles down the road.”
The “90 miles down the road” quip was an unsolicited swipe at former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Cantor spectacularly lost his primary in June to Republican challenger Dave Brat. Cantor had long eyed the speaker’s gavel and had apparently failed to take care of business back home first.
Pelosi is eyeing the speaker’s gavel again, too. But unlike Cantor trying to wrest it from House Speaker John Boehner, Democrats must first return to the majority. And speculation is rampant as to whether Pelosi would to stick it out another two years in the minority.
“I am staying on for two more years. I am running for re-election,” Pelosi said Wednesday.
Reporters tried to get Pelosi to clarify whether that meant running for re-election as minority leader or just for her district in San Francisco. But that remained unclear. Two weeks ago when asked if she would remain as minority leader for another Congress, Pelosi said “I’m not going into my plans.”
But Pelosi sure dipped into those plans at Wednesday’s press conference. A decent showing by Democrats, holding their own, creeping toward the majority gives them a good springboard going into 2016. And if it looks like Democrats are in good shape heading for 2016, Pelosi could remain as minority leader with another shot at the speaker’s gavel come January 2017.
She’d be 76 then, turning 77 just a few months later.
Pelosi’s San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010 and again in 2012. Pelosi is fond of saying the Giants are on the “every other year plan.” And perhaps that’s the case with the Giants back in the playoffs this year. The Giants whipped the Pittsburgh Pirates in the one-game Wild Card playoff and start a series against the Washington Nationals Friday. Pelosi made a point of telling reporters that Nationals’ owner Ted Lerner is her neighbor here in Washington.
No word if they will place a bet.
But Pelosi is placing a bet on 2016. Like the Giants, she’s on the every other year plan, too.
Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.