Nancy Pelosi has exhibited remarkable staying power — and not just by remaining in office after losing the speakership. More than three years after giving up the gavel, the liberal San Francisco Democrat remains a favorite foil in Republicans’ campaign commercials. Just this week she made cameos in two GOP ads, and it’s still only January. In a heated special election in Florida, the National Republican Congressional Committee is airing an ad that features a photo of Democratic nominee Alex Sink sandwiched between pictures of President Obama and Pelosi. “Another tax and spender,” reads the text on the screen.
In this case, the minority leader’s presence makes some sense. Sink, after all, is running for the House and, if she wins, she would join Pelosi’s Democratic Caucus. But there was Pelosi again in an ad for Ben Sasse, a tea-party Republican Senate candidate in Nebraska. His ad opens with a grainy, black-and-white video of her speaking about Obamacare. GOP operatives say the health care law will be the omnipresent focus in the GOP’s 2014 campaign ads. Still, images of Pelosi (and Obama) will appear early and often to make the political-messaging medicine go down easier. Says the NRCC’s Andrea Bozek, “Nancy Pelosi’s picture is worth a thousand words.”
You Are Cordially Invited
Both Democrats and Republicans are using this year’s State of the Union guest list to invite trouble. Lawmakers are each allowed a +1, and they’re using those seats to highlight some of the nation’s woes — and, of course, to make things uncomfortable for their foes.
Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Alan Lowenthal of California are asking colleagues to invite the long-term jobless, to put Congress on the spot for failing to retroactively extend long-term unemployment insurance this month.
Republicans are expected to bring along guests to highlight problems with Obamacare. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, for example, plans to bring a woman with lupus whose insurance was canceled. The parade of problems will vie with the president for camera time, allowing lawmakers to send their own messages about the state of the union.
Drilling Down Rep. Mike Simpson isn’t the first House veteran to face a tea-party challenger, but he has an unusual army of allies: his fellow dentists. Their influential lobby is expected to go all out this year to protect the Idaho Republican, one of only two dentists on Capitol Hill. The lobby has already dropped $22,000 in mailers and $20,000 on calls to Idaho voters to gauge the race. On the other side is the well-heeled Club for Growth, which named Simpson its first target for defeat in 2014; its candidate has already raised more than $525,000, including some of his own money. “We’ll try to raise as much as we can” for Simpson, says Mike Graham, an executive at the American Dental Association. And the group’s track record is strong. When the other lone dentist in Congress, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., won his seat in 2010, nearly 600 dentists contributed $265,000 to his campaign — accounting for more than half his donors and over 40 percent of his haul. When Gosar faced a Club-backed tea-party challenge in 2012, the dental lobby packed $150,000 into his race. Dentists nationwide injected another $210,000. Simpson, 63, is an especially valued ally for the dental association (whose political action committee has spent an average of $2.5 million in each of the past three cycles). He’s a member of the speaker’s inner circle and the chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee. “It makes a difference, sure, to have an appropriator who is a dentist,” Graham says.