Published: November 8, 2006
The Associated Press
When Republican prospects looked bleak ahead of congressional elections, party leaders would try to rally their supporters with a two-word warning of what a Democratic victory would mean: Speaker Pelosi.
On Tuesday, the Republican nightmare came true. The Democrats won a majority in the House and Nancy Pelosi, a liberal from one of the nation's liberal districts, was set to become speaker of the House, the highest ranking lawmaker in the 435-member chamber.
Pelosi is a big reason Democrats are returning to power after a dozen years in the minority. She organized the traditionally fractious Democratic lawmakers into a united front against President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans. She campaigned tirelessly for members of her own party.
Pelosi raised $59 million (46 million) for House candidates this election cycle and more than $100 million (78 million) since she was elected House Democratic leader four years ago.
Under her leadership, Democrats showed rare unity, with members voting with their party 88 percent of the time in 2005, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly.
No one has worked harder "to bring us out of the desert," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a fellow Democrat from California and longtime friend. "This woman is a human tornado."
Pelosi, 66, the daughter and sister of Baltimore mayors, grew up immersed in politics. She moved west in her 20s when her investment banker husband wanted to return to his roots. She managed to work herself into California's Democratic political structure while raising five children who were born over six years.
She did not run for Congress until she was 46, when her youngest daughter reached high school.
Pelosi made history four years ago when she became the first woman to lead a party caucus in either house of Congress, piercing what she calls a "marble ceiling" in the Capitol that makes it difficult for women to ascend to powerful positions.
Anticipating her party's new majority status, Pelosi struck a confident and conciliatory tone Tuesday night: "Democrats are ready to lead. We are prepared to govern. And we will do so working together with the administration and Republicans in Congress in partnership, not partisanship."
But her pledge to treat Republicans more fairly than they have dealt with Democrats could be "the first casualty of a Pelosi speakership," said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California who has written extensively about Congress.
Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker said that as a leader of the Democratic minority, Pelosi executed "guerrilla warfare against a vastly superior force." Her weaknesses, he said, included the Democrats' failure to offer a clear message to counter the Republicans and her sometimes halting television presence.
"My hunch is that there is some uneasiness in the House about her as speaker," Baker said, adding that such reservations are tied partly to her liberal image.