Ezra Klein did a post on Friday puzzling over why there’s so much more hubub about Nancy Pelosi keeping her job than over Harry Reid keeping his:
Pelosi might be a bit more unpopular, but they’re both pretty unpopular. And Pelosi is a lot less vulnerable in her district than Reid is in his state.
Another possible answer is that Democrats lost their majority in the House, but not in the Senate. But it’s hard to give that explanation much credit, either: Senate Democrats would have lost the majority if all of them had been up for reelection. They hold the chamber because only a third of the Senate was up for election, not because Reid’s forces were more popular than Pelosi’s.
I don’t actually find this very puzzling. If you look at the record, when Pelosi first became Minority Leader people suggested that Democrats were doomed. When the Democrats won the House in 2006, there was an immediate cry to . . . replace Nancy Pelosi with Rahm Emannuel. Then after 2010 again come the calls to dump Pelosi. Basically no matter what the question the answer is “dump Nancy Pelosi.” And that’s because, basically, she’s a DFH. Of really powerful politicians in America, she’s the most left-wing. And of real liberals in American politics, she’s the most powerful. Reid’s not like a stealth conservative or the second coming of Ben Nelson or anything, but when the body politic swings to the right he swings with it. He voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq and voted no on the Levin and Durbin amendments to temper it. Pelosi led the opposition in the House, breaking with the caucus’s then-leader Richard Gephardt.
You may recall that when consideration was given to the idea of making John Kerry Secretary of State, one objection raised was that “Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) stands behind Kerry in line for the gavel, but Senate insiders have speculated that Feingold may be too liberal for the chairmanship.” One of the informal rules of Washington is that real liberals aren’t supposed to get real power. Pelosi is an affront to that rule. So she’s had a target on her back from the get-go.