House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday appeared to embrace a strategy by some Democratic candidates to openly oppose her as they run for Congress.
“I think if they had to do that to win the election, I’m all for winning,” she said at a Politico Playbook event in Washington.
She was asked specifically about a report from The Washington Post on a slew of Democratic candidates who have publicly vowed to oppose Pelosi should Democrats retake the majority and elect a new speaker.
Her comments go farther in acknowledging the political realities of Democrats running in more conservative districts. Democrat Conor Lamb won a special election in Pennsylvania in March in part after promising to vote against Pelosi for the speakership.
“I don’t think that that really had that much impact on the race,” Pelosi said at a press conference after the special election. “He won. If we hadn’t won, you might have a question, but we won — the ‘D’ next to his name was very significant.”
Her comments on Tuesday, however, suggest she understands that it could help some Democrats to distance themselves from her.
“I’m OK. Just win, baby,” she said to laughter. “I think many of them are saying we need…new leadership, yeah. I don’t take offense at that.”
Still, she cautioned that voters shouldn’t listen to largely GOP-backed ads that blast her as a popular villain, saying “you cannot let your opponents chose your leaders.”
“If you let them decide who your leaders are, they’re going to decide how you vote,” she added.
And some political observers speculate that Republican efforts to link opponents to Pelosi are having diminishing returns on winning races, pointing to the Lamb victory as a prime example.
Pelosi said she felt “confident” about her support among the Democratic caucus as lawmakers prepare for a leadership race for the next congressional term, one many are hoping will involve a race for House speaker.
The California Democrat argued she had the legislative chops to lead her party and become speaker again. She also reiterated a point that she’s previously made that she brings gender diversity to major negotiations between the White House and Congress.
“That became very important to me, that there would be a woman at the table where these decisions are negotiated. And I consider myself a legislative virtuoso,” she said. “I say this because I want women to take pride in what they are…and not (be) viewed as running away from a fight.”
Asked about her plans should Democrats remain in the minority after the midterms, Pelosi didn’t want to go there.
“I can’t even think about not winning,” she said. “You have to believe. You have to believe. You have to believe. Yeah. You have to believe.”
Pelosi also ripped into the Trump administration for proposing to roll back $7 billion in unspent funds from the Children’s Health Insurance Program as part of its rescissions package. She also blasted a new Department of Homeland Security proposal that could separate families at the border.
“I have five children. I have nine grandchildren,” she said. “Do you know what you sound like? What kind of people are you?”
Pelosi also repeated her disapproval of pursuing impeachment of Trump, despite some calls from within her own party for impeachment proceedings. She argued “we’re not at that place now” and described impeachment as “divisive” and a “distraction” from Democrats’ domestic agenda.
“It’s not the path we should go on,” she said. “It takes attention away from the connection we have to make to people about their … financial stability.”