Editor’s Note: Congressman Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, is from New Mexico. He was appointed to the House Democratic Leadership as a Chief Deputy Whip in 2013, served as chair of the the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2016 cycle and was elected by his colleagues to serve again as DCCC chair in the 2018 midterms. He is running unopposed for the position of assistant Democratic leader in the upcoming Congress. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own; view more opinion at CNN.
Two weeks ago, House Democrats delivered the party’s best midterm performance since the post-Watergate election of 1974. Even with heavily Republican gerrymandered maps and a national popular vote advantage that experts considered lower than necessary to even flip the House, Democrats are on track to turn at least 39 seats from red to blue.
As Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I spent a significant amount of time this cycle traveling throughout the country making a personal case to supporters about our candidates. I know firsthand how Democrats achieved our historic victory, and what it will take to build on this success heading into 2020.
Throughout my time on the road, there was one constant: Nancy Pelosi. She was strong, passionate and persuasive. She always showed up, always took the time, always made the case better than anyone else about how consequential these midterms were.
In ways seen and unseen, Pelosi was integral in setting up our Democratic Party for success on the campaign trail. For one, she was overwhelmingly our best fundraiser, raising roughly half of the DCCC’s cycle haul and helping us build resources at levels never before seen in a midterm election.
Battle-tested, she used her voice to keep the national conversation focused on things that mattered to the American people: health care, real middle class tax reform, protecting Medicare and Social Security and growing our economy to increase wages. Working closely with our messaging leads, she – and our colleagues and candidates – took our “For The People” message to the people. And it worked.
She did all this while balancing an ideologically diverse Democratic caucus and the dangers posed by an erratic, impulsive President who constantly sought to distract from the personal conversation that Democrats were having with voters. But with laser focus and a “Just Win, Baby” mentality, Nancy Pelosi’s achievements this year are historic.
It’s important to note that this was all in the face of Republicans’ desperate attacks against her character, backed up by millions of dollars. Not only did Pelosi persevere through those ugly and relentless attacks, a net of at least 39 seats have flipped from red to blue. It’s clear that the Republicans’ attacks are part of a tired and failed playbook.
There’s a reason it failed: Outside of Republicans’ Beltway echo chamber, in competitive districts across America, voters simply didn’t buy it. This midterm was deeply personal to voters across the country, and these Republican attacks failed to convey any personal impact on voters’ lives.
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Consistent with many past national and district-specific polls, an exit poll conducted by the Washington Post in battleground districts found Pelosi ranked dead last among the list of issues that mattered to voters, with 7% reporting Pelosi as important in their choice of candidate. By contrast, President Trump was the most or second-most important factor for 42% of those interviewed.
The simple truth is that House Republicans lost the majority because they could not defend their record on the issues that mattered most to voters: health care and prescription drugs, the GOP tax scam for the rich, and cleaning up corruption in Washington. While Republicans spent their time and money talking about Pelosi, she was busy orchestrating the resources, mobilization and message discipline that threw the GOP majority into a headlong retreat from their votes on taxes and health care.
Now we are in the majority, and this is a critical time for leadership and unity. With Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, House Democrats will pass bold legislation to deliver on the commitments of our For The People agenda.