Pelosi Key to GOP 2010 Playbook

WASHINGTON -- Republicans are stepping up attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, deciding that a major part of their 2010 electoral strategy will be linking Democratic candidates to her.

The approach emerged last week when the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, issued a statement saying it hopes Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, puts Pelosi "in her place" on Afghan policy. The statement accused Pelosi, a California Democrat, of putting party politics ahead of national security in her cautious statements on expanding the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

Pelosi Thursday called the statement sexist. "It's really sad. They really don't understand how inappropriate that is," she told reporters. "I'm in my place. I'm speaker of the House, the first woman speaker of the House. And I'm in my place because the House of Representatives voted me there. That language is something I haven't even heard in decades."

In response, Joanna Burgos, an NRCC spokeswoman, said in a statement that Pelosi "self-righteously believes she is better suited to craft our country's military policy" than is Gen. McChrystal.

Republicans tried to stanch their party's bloodletting in 2006 by linking Democratic candidates to the San Francisco lawmaker, who appeared on track to become speaker if the Democrats retook the House. Last year, Pelosi was already speaker, but her party didn't also control the presidency. Now, with Democrats holding huge congressional majorities and with Barack Obama in the White House, Democrats are more easily tied to just about anything coming out of Washington. Thus Republicans are betting that voters now associate the House speaker with policies that make them uncomfortable, like generous government spending and a cap-and-trade system for fighting global warming.

In a recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, 44% of respondents had negative feelings about Pelosi and 27% had positive ones, with the remaining 29% either neutral or not sure. Among independents, 53% viewed her negatively and just 20% positively.

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