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Pelosi’s Back Door to Speaker’s Office


While most Americans will be buying in to the hype over The Omen on 6/6/6, for political junkies, the proverbial day of the devil will tell us a lot about if and how Nancy Pelosi can become Speaker of the House. The special election in California’s 50th District, recently vacated by Randy “Duke” Cunningham, is up for grabs, and Republican Brian Billbray, is facing a tough-as-nails challenge from Democrat Francine Busby.
For months now, the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. has been that 2006 has the potential to be 1994 in reverse. Calling this year the perfect political storm, analysts see tanking poll numbers for the President and for Congress and general malcontents in the public which has the strong potential to turn into an anti-incumbent landslide and propel Nancy Pelosi to just four heartbeats from the Presidency.
But the lesson from next Tuesday’s election in Northern San Diego County may be that the election in 2006 looks more like the Democratic victory in 1992 than the Republican congressional win in 1994.
Bill Clinton was never really elected President, you’ll recall…the part of the nation that does not define itself as the Democratic base split their votes between George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot.
The thought of Nancy Pelosi being just heartbeats from the Presidency is what most Republican insiders believe will save them from massive voter outrage. For Republicans who are upset over budget deficits, uncontrolled spending or illegal immigration, pulling a Democrat’s lever really is not a better alternative. But the GOP should not take comfort in Democratic ineptitude alone.
I would argue that rather than see Democrats sweeping into office in a tidal wave of support for their ideas (as if they had them), Pelosi will more likely take a back-door route into the Speaker’s office as voters in Republican-leaning districts desert both parties in just enough numbers to tip the balance in a handful of districts…and California Fifty will show Democrats the way.
A recent poll in California’s Fiftieth Congressional District had both Billbray and Busby tied at 45%. One percent was undecided. The rest, were voting for libertarian Paul King. Although he stands no chance of winning the election, the Libertarian in this race could end up being the kingmaker.
See, California Fifty was drawn to be a safe seat for Republicans. According to the California TargetBook, 44% of its voters are registered with the GOP and only twice in the last six years has any Democrat gotten more than 45%. But in 2006, 45% may be enough to win a seat in Congress.
Republicans of all stripes are discontent with Billbray as their candidate. The farthest of the nefarious far right, embodied in blogger John Fleischmann, don’t like Billbray because of his support for gay rights and women’s reproductive freedom. Centrists are upset with Billbray for running attack ads against Busby for supporting President Bush’s position on immigration. Senator John McCain, in a highly-publicized move, a week before the election, cancelled a fundraiser for Billbray. While not all Republicans will desert the former Surfer Congressman, as little as 10% could tip the race to Busby who is unlikely to get more than 48% of the vote but could still end up in Congress (where maybe they’ll call her “Bush-by”).
Since Republicans took control of Congress and many Statehouses in the 1990’s, the GOP was able to create a national gerrymander, where all but 30 or so Congressional Districts look like California Fifty in that they are firmly in one camp or another. The only way one party will break through in the other’s territory may be by relying on a mass defection to a third Party.
Bill Clinton never got the majority of the popular vote, yet he won the Presidency overwhelmingly because Republicans deserted their party to vote for Ross Perot. While there is no organized movement of central figure to lead a third-party tidal wave in 2006, the Libertarian, Green or Peace and Freedom candidates in just a handful of districts may make enough noise to make otherwise safe seats competitive and give Nancy Pelosi the keys to the back door of the United States Capitol.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 11:45 AM | Permalink

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