Biden was not on the ballot and Pelosi faced few challenges in his San Francisco district, but you wouldn’t have known that from their reactions to the results. The 80-year-old future president and 82-year-old speaker, mutual admirers with similar roots and sharing grievances toward wise critics and pundits, were optimistic about their prospects and felt vindicated by the party’s success.
With low approval ratings, incumbents at risk rejecting his presence on the campaign trail, and much of the party complaining about his last-minute decision to give a closing speech on democracy, Biden felt the election demonstrated, once again, its tactile sense for the American voter.
He called a few dozen Democrats on Tuesday night and was, one aide recalled, delighted when many of them mentioned how they had carried out elements of his legislative agenda.
Perhaps no conversation was sweeter than the one he had in the early evening with one of the House’s star candidates, whose race had yet to be called. Still, Biden knew Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia would win and wanted to be among the first to congratulate her. He didn’t need to remind him that it was Spanberger who, following the party’s loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race last year, said Biden hadn’t been elected “to be FDR”. but to “be normal and stop the chaos”.
In the eyes of voters, it was the Republicans who appeared abnormal and perpetuating the chaos.
No Democrat understood this more personally and painfully than Pelosi. Already devastated by the home invasion and vicious attack on her husband, Paul, the speaker was horrified by the callous response from some Republicans, who either downplayed the assault or doctored conspiracy theories about its nature . She was, according to a confidante, deeply hurt and did little to hide her feelings.
Pelosi put on an optimistic face at his traditional Election Day luncheon with labor leaders and other allies at a Washington steakhouse. But her friends there could tell she was concerned about the results ahead and had absorbed all the predictions from those feared pundits, not to mention her own lieutenants, that the Democrats were in danger of suffering a defeat of more than 20 seats. in the room.
Late one night, one of her longtime Democratic allies phoned a very different Pelosi. She was “almost giddy,” this Democrat told me, and went through the election district by district to explain how the party was cutting its losses.
Pelosi had planned to step down in the face of a Republican outpouring, and advisers were to prepare a choreographed departure, including parting remarks. Those arrangements, however, have been put on hold and she now wants to see what the final results of the House are before deciding whether or not to give up her leadership role. One possibility, particularly if Republicans have only a seat or two upside, is that she stays in her post, at least for the first few months of the next Congress, when ground maneuvers might be most important. .
In addition to Biden’s private incitements, Pelosi also has the backing of his Senate counterpart: On Monday, the Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer told Burgess Everett and POLITICO’s Marianne LeVine that he hopes Pelosi remains in charge, adding, “I love him.”
Pelosi’s friends describe her as genuinely indecisive and awaiting clarity from her adopted state on two fronts, as pivotal California House results ripple and her husband begins what could be a long recovery in their house in San Francisco.
His decision was transformed not just by the uncertainty of the outcome, but by the attack on Paul Pelosi, which effectively merged what had been separate personal and political deliberations. She is now assessing her health and needs for the future, but is also more gripped than ever by the risks to the country, given the political motivation behind the tragedy.
During a call with a cabinet official and a handful of lawmakers after the burglary, Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, the speaker’s closest friend in Congress, became emotional as he explained how serious Paul Pelosi’s condition was, asking those on the call to say a prayer.
Other colleagues in the House are, that is, Congress, more attuned to Pelosi’s plot, and some were skeptical when she told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday that a de facto project was forming. “My members are asking me to consider doing it,” Pelosi said of staying on as leader.
Still, it’s a sign of respect for the speaker, who led House Democrats for nearly 20 years, that an entire week after the election, no one in her cacophonous caucus went public to push her back. the exits.
Even some of his less timid detractors are only willing to say in the background that by leaving, Pelosi would simply be keeping his own 2018 promise to leave at the end of this Congress. “She said she’s done, I guess she’ll honor that commitment,” a Pelosi reviewer said.
Many House Democrats believe she will indeed fulfill that pledge if the party does not achieve a majority, which seems increasingly likely. For the time being, however, she has spurred a frantic guessing game in Washington; its future status was a constant topic of conversation among lawmakers during weekend orientation sessions for new members.
Pelosi also froze the planning of his two octogenarian colleagues in management, Steny Hoyer and James. E. Clyburnas well as the next generation of Democrats hoping to rise, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who garnered strong support to succeed Pelosi as Democratic House leader.
Biden would do well to delay this succession.
An Irish-American from Delaware and an Italian-American from Baltimore, the two pre-baby boom Roman Catholics bonded when Biden was vice president. “My Catholic sister! he exclaimed when he saw Pelosi.
They are both institutionalists at heart and have come to share a grave concern about the country’s democracy, a sense of alarm that only grew after the attack on Paul Pelosi.
They fell on hard times during Biden’s presidency, primarily due to Pelosi’s frustrations with the White House. She has done little to hide her displeasure with the president during the standoff over infrastructure and “Build Back Better” legislation, and has even publicly complained about some of Biden’s remarks. More recently, she and her allies were angered that he offered conditional congratulations to House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy for appearing to claim a majority.
Yet Biden has rarely complained about Pelosi, seeing her with something just coy as she delivered win after win to him with a slim majority. And now he hopes she stays, at some point the Democrats will control the Senate and be in a position to at least make life difficult for a narrow Republican majority in the House.
One of Biden’s top advisers put it simply: “He thinks she’s the best president ever.”
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