The Return of the Original Gangster: Nancy Pelosi

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pauses during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, January 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Pelosi called on House Speaker John Boehner to cancel next week's recess until the House passes an extension of unemployment insurance. 
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Shane Goldmacher and Elahe Izadi
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Shane Goldmacher Elahe Izadi
Jan. 23, 2014, 4 p.m.

Ori­gin­al Gang­ster

You Are Cor­di­ally In­vited

Mur­murs

Original Gangster

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.”

Shane Gold­mach­er

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.

Elahe Iz­adi

Murmurs

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.

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