Republicans Are Attacking Nancy Pelosi Even In Non-House Races

The House minority leader is turning up in GOP attack ads for Senate and state legislative races.

Republicans are so obsessed with Nancy Pelosi that they’re using her in ads for Senate campaigns. 

Pelosi, the liberal House minority leader from San Francisco, has consistently been one of the GOP’s favorite targets. She’s been featured in roughly one-third of Republican TV ads aired in House races this year. 

Now she’s popping up in a couple of Senate ads as well. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is running to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D), is out with a new ad arguing that Nelson always “votes the party line.” One of the people in the spot says, “I think Nancy Pelosi’s a huge influence on the Democratic Party and Bill Nelson.”

“The ad features testimonials of Florida voters expressing their frustrations of Bill Nelson being a party-line voter who is more influenced by his party bosses in DC than by the needs of the Floridians he’s supposed to serve,” Scott campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone wrote in an email.

A campaign press release for the ad pointed out how often Nelson has voted with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Nelson’s campaign spokeswoman Carlie Waibel said he has “a long record of working across the aisle and has been recognized for it.”

“For eight years, Rick Scott ran a one-party-rule state, and now he’s doing and saying anything to be part of the one-party rule in Washington,” she added. 

Republican Matt Rosendale, who is competing for his party’s nomination to go up against Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), also recently put out an ad highlighting Pelosi’s criticism of the tax law. 

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity released an ad in February against Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), saying that by voting against last year’s GOP tax bill, he “stood with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer” instead of with voters in the state. 

It’s clear that Republicans see Pelosi as a huge boon for them this cycle. She was central to their strategy in a June 2017 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, where Democrat Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel. The race attracted big money from both sides of the aisle, and Republicans portrayed Ossoff as tied to Pelosi and other national Democrats.

But the attack-Pelosi tactic hasn’t been as successful since then. Republicans featured her prominently in their attacks against Democrat Conor Lamb in a heated special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District in March, portraying him as a tool of the party establishment. He was victorious, in an area that Donald Trump handily won in 2016. 

In February a GOP super PAC went after a woman running for a seat in the Florida statehouse with a mailer reading, “Margaret Good and her liberal pal Nancy Pelosi want to expand Obamacare in Florida.”

Good ended up winning that race, in a surprise victory for Democrats.

Pelosi’s office pointed to observations by GOP pollster David Winston, who cautioned his party against relying too heavily on an attack-Pelosi strategy: 

Anti-Pelosi rhetoric and negative advertising still stir the GOP base, and perhaps the specter of another Pelosi speakership will send some on K Street heading for their checkbooks to get behind Republican PACs. But Pelosi’s value as a political target may have come and gone, or at least reached a point of diminishing returns, especially with independents who tend to decide elections these days.

In our most recent “Winning the Issues” survey, we asked voters what would matter more to them in deciding their vote for Congress this fall — a candidate’s position on Pelosi or a candidate’s position on the tax cut plan and how individuals are benefiting. The tax cut beat out Pelosi 73 percent to 12 percent.

This story has been updated with the Rosendale ad.