Looking at the campaign ads eventual victor Karen Handle ran in the Georgia race, one would have thought she was running against Pelosi, not Jon Ossoff. "I think that in certain areas, like in some of these special-election districts, it doesn't benefit our candidates to be tied to her".
Those leaders have been entrenched in their current positions for years, limiting younger members' ability to rise to the top of the House Democratic ranks - though Pelosi has created new junior leadership roles for younger members. In the little-reported 5th District of South Carolina, Republican Mick Mulvaney had bested his Democratic opponent by 20 percentage points in 2016. Mitt Romney carried it 61 to 37 percent in 2012; Trump won it by only a 48.3-46.8 percent margin previous year.
Democrats have huge structural disadvantages to overcome in most elections.
The good news for Democrats is that they were able to hold Handel to a Trumpish rather than the traditionally expected margin in such a district.
She may very well be the legislator that she fancies herself to be, but one thing she is not is a national figurehead who can rally voters for other candidates around the country.
Normally, years of Republican gains would trigger a sober self-assessment among Democrats. But most voters knew better. She claimed that despite Democrats losing their majority in the House under her watch in 2010, the party had never been so successful and her leadership remains a requirement going forward.
For those keeping score at home, the Democrats whiffed again.
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Republicans held onto Mick Mulvaney's SC congressional seat in Tuesday's special election, but the 3-point margin was hardly what they may have been presuming, given Mulvaney's 20-point victory in November. Trump carried all three by wider margins than Romney, but in each, Republicans failed to match his showing and won with results reverting toward or falling below the levels of the persistent partisan pattern. And it's especially true when, as in these examples, no one expects the incumbent party's candidate to lose. Because Ossoff didn't live in the district, he couldn't even vote for himself. Incumbents enter with an edge and often without serious opposition.
Democrats could see the recent special election losses as proof that they are on the road to victory.
"Despite the loss" in Tuesday's special House election in Georgia, wrote Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "we have a lot to be proud of". Why squander the votes of those who want to check the president but not oust him (or hold a pointless Senate trial)?
Both candidates received death threats during the campaign and spoke with the press about violence in USA politics.
"Republicans blew through millions to keep a ruby-red seat, and in their desperate rush to stop the hemorrhaging, they've returned to demonizing the party's strongest fund-raiser and consensus builder", Drew Hammill, Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, told The New York Times. And none of the Republicans showed the political skills and enthusiasm of many Newt Gingrich followers in the 1990s or tea partyers in the 2010s.
Republicans control the presidency and both houses of Congress.
"It's fair to say nearly every cent has been raised through the prism of, 'we need to hold the Republican majority to prevent Nancy Pelosi from passing her far-left agenda, '" said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee - the House GOP's campaign arm.