WASHINGTON — When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made history last week for the longest speech delivered on the House floor, she deserved praise for two things: her stamina in the eight-hour talkfest and her ability to do it in 4-inch spike heels.
But politically, she likely did little more than create another attack ad for Republicans to run against Democratic candidates around the country.
Pelosi's speech, mostly stories about "Dreamers" — the people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents and are caught in a political firestorm between both parties — was red meat for the Democratic base. But perorations on behalf of immigrants who are in the country illegally are unlikely to excite the independents, and swing Republicans and centrist Democrats whose votes will determine control of Congress.
Similarly tone-deaf were her warnings last year that the Republican tax-cut bill is the apocalypse. "It is the end of the world," Pelosi told reporters after the bill passed. "This is Armageddon."
And calling the $1,000 bonuses that more than 3 million American workers have received over the past few weeks as a result of the bill "crumbs" was also not helpful.
A $1,000 bonus is not a crumb, and neither is an extra $100 per paycheck. As Democrats were supposed to spend their week fine-tuning their message at their party retreat, they had to face some hard truths about the face of the Party. Pelosi is out of touch with people who live outside of her San Francisco district and Washington, D.C.
Most of the people who live in the more than 100 House districts the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting are happy with their crumbs, don't see the connection between immigrants who are in the country illegally and a budget deal, couldn't afford Pelosi's high heels anyway and, so far, don't see Armageddon on the horizon.
No one thing or person moves the needle more for Republicans than House Minority Leader Pelosi. Place her in a head-to-head focus group against Trump in a congressional swing district currently held by a Republican and Trump comes out on top every time.
That just hurts Democratic candidates.
This is why Conor Lamb, the Democratic nominee in the special election for Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, said he would like to see Democrats replace Pelosi as their leader.
Lamb is no conservative. He's pro-abortion rights and believes there needs to be a broader discussion of gun control. Yet he faces enough headwinds in this Republican-leaning district, and so, he had to moderate somewhere to help him win. Distancing himself from Pelosi was the most obvious choice.
Still, the GOP is running ads in the district, placing Lamb side by side with Pelosi on the issues.
Democrats have a decent chance of taking back the majority in the House, or at least making it close. The signs of a wave are percolating but not quite clear. One of their biggest obstacles is Nancy Pelosi's unpopularity among voters outside San Francisco.
As one Democratic strategist working on several House races put it: "We cannot continue to turn people off. The door just started to open for us, and if we don't get our messaging right, it is going to shut in our face before it ever opened."
Cursing $1,000 crumbs, declaring Armageddon and standing in heels isn't going to open that door.