To help Dems, Pelosi keeps low profile on the campaign trail

Holly Bailey
The Upshot

When it comes to electing Democrats, few lawmakers work harder than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Over the last 20 months, Pelosi has visited 21 states on behalf of her party, including battleground districts in New Mexico, Oregon, and Iowa.

The only catch: Pelosi hasn't campaigned in public with a single Democratic candidate in any of the districts considered pivotal to helping her party retain its majority control of the House. With Republicans already trying to make her an issue in local races, especially in districts held by conservative Democrats, Pelosi is intentionally laying low, hoping to help Democratic candidates by staying away from them.

Instead, Pelosi is spending most of her time on the campaign trail behind closed doors, doing what she does best: raising money for her party. According to her office, the House Speaker has brought in more than $35 million for House Democrats this election cycle.

In some cases, like a $500-a-head cocktail party in Santa Fe, New Mexico, last week, the candidates join Pelosi in wooing donors — though few details, if any, are ever released about what was said, who was there, and how much money was ultimately raised.

In other cases, vulnerable Democrats keep their distance. Later this month, Pelosi is set to headline private fund-raisers in Dallas and Houston — where the price of admission ranges from $5,000 to $30,400. Yet a pair of vulnerable Democrats from two of the state's most hotly contested House races won't be there.

Reps. Chet Edwards and Ciro Rodriguez, both of whom are set to be on the receiving end of ads paid for by the House Democrats' campaign committee, conveniently have other obligations — not surprising in a state where Pelosi is not exactly popular. Summing up Pelosi's visit, Eileen Smith, an editor at Texas Monthly, wrote, "Why doesn't D.C. just send Satan down to campaign here?"

Pelosi is hardly the first high-profile lawmaker to hide out to help the party. As The Upshot previously reported, President Obama is laying low in some Democratic districts — just as President Bush had to do before him. But she's slightly more unpopular than Obama. According to a recent Gallup poll, 51 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Pelosi — a less than shocking number, especially since Congress's approval rating recently hit a dismal 20 percent.

And Congress's low public standing is precisely why the GOP has frequently sought to cast Pelosi as a villain in their campaign pushes. A recent ad by the Republican Governors Association depicts Pelosi and Obama as tyrants. Meanwhile, an outside group called Right Change put out an ad called "Attack of the 50 Foot Pelosi." You can watch it here:

In an interview with ABC's "This Week," Pelosi dismissed the GOP's attacks as a desperate campaign tactic. "[It's] funny. It attracts attention, but they have nothing to say about what they want to go for," she said of the Republicans taking shots at her.

Still, Pelosi isn't taking any chances. During the August recess, the House Speaker is scheduled to attend several fundraisers — including a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dinner with President Obama in Los Angeles later this month. She'll speak to a labor-union event and is scheduled to appear before the American Legion's annual conference in Milwaukee early next month. But so far, she's not scheduled to stump on behalf of any specific candidates.