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Pelosi’s Support for Obamacare Draws Fire from Fellow Democratic Candidates

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Mark Stricherz - published on 10/30/14 - updated on 06/08/17

Even members of House leader's party are distancing themselves from her.

WASHINGTON — For nearly two years, House Speaker John Boehner was under fire from a dozen fellow Republicans for not voting to cut federal spending more aggressively. But on the campaign trail this fall, it has been House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Catholic, who has drawn criticism and outright opposition from a few vulnerable Democratic candidates for her support of the Affordable Care Act.

In Georgia, Rep. John Barrow cut an ad boasting of his opposition to Pelosi. “I voted against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker,” Barrow says looking directly into the camera. Earlier in the commercial, Barrow told viewers he is “leading the effort to repeal the Obamacare mandates.”

In Florida, Democratic candidate Gwen Graham released an ad that highlighted her distance from Pelosi. “Washington is broken. Both parties, Republican and Democrat, are to blame, and both need new leaders in Washington,” Graham tells the viewer in the ad, as a photo of Boehner and Pelosi appears on the screen. In another ad, Graham explains that she “wasn’t in Congress when they voted on Obamacare and both parties got it wrong.”

Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said voters tie Pelosi’s leadership in passing the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2009 and 2010 to her overall philosophy of liberalism. “She symbolizes the national liberalism of the Democratic Party. She’s a leader. She’s from San Francisco. This seems a foreign place to voters in these other districts,” Gonzales said in an interview.

Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said voters don’t think Pelosi will serve as a watchdog against the abuses and legislative missteps of the Obama administration. “The big thing we saw in the polling in every district is that voters want a check and balance on the president, and they don’t think she will provide that,” Scarpinato said in an interview.

Spokespersons for Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not respond for comment via phone or email by publication deadline.

Running campaign commercials against the other party’s leaders is a time-honored political tactic. Democrats tied vulnerable House Republicans to House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1998 and to Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2006. Republicans are following the same playbook in 2014.

The NRCC is running commercials in 14 House districts that tie the Democratic candidate to Pelosi. The districts span the red-state, blue-state divide — Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and New York.

In the race for the second congressional district in Arizona, a female narrator warns viewers of the peril that will befall them if they vote for Democratic incumbent Ron Barber on November 4. “We can’t send Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi a rubber stamp,” the woman said as black-and-white images of Obama, Pelosi, and Barber appear on screen.

Although National Journal reported Democratic candidates’ opposition to Pelosi, fresh polling data from the National Republican Congressional Committee shows that Pelosi is a bigger drag on the Democratic ticket in three congressional battlegrounds than President Obama.

In the first congressional district in Arizona, Pelosi has a favorable image among 31 percent of voters and an unfavorable image among 56 percent. Obama’s favorable-unfavorable numbers are 43 and 53. The Rothenberg Political Report rates the race between Rep. Ann Kilpatrick, a Democrat, and state House Speaker Andy Tobin, a Republican, as a “pure tossup.”

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