Surely the National Journal is asking a rhetorical question here, yes?
When Mark Sanford debated a cardboard cutout of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in his South Carolina race last week, it was a replay of a tried-and-true Republican strategy: Demonize Pelosi and wrap her like a stone around your opponent’s neck.
The tactic can be effective, torn from a well-worn playbook that dates from nearly a decade ago. But it does beg a question: Why isn’t Speaker John Boehner targeted in the same way by Democrats?
The reason is perfectly obvious, and it can be seen in the Gallup poll that the National Journal referenced, but did not link to: Nancy Pelosi is hated significantly more than John Boehner is. Here are the numbers for the four Congressional leaders:
As you can see, Nancy has a net -17 favorable rating, while John has net -10*. And if you look historically: in 2009 John Boehner had a 25/23 favorable rating (+2 net) that crested to 42/22 in the beginning of 2011, then went underwater quick, only to go back to roughly tied (+1) in time for the 2012 elections, then back to the current -10. Meanwhile, at about the same time: Pelosi was roughly even (+1) in the beginning of 2009, then went rapidly to being high-teens disapproved of and has stayed there ever since. Although, to be cruel about it, the most interesting thing that has happened to her since 2010 is that the percentage of people who have no opinion of Nancy Pelosi has almost doubled.
Simply put, the reason why Democratic strategists aren’t trying to tie John Boehner around the Republican party’s neck in the same way that Republican ones tied Nancy Pelosi around the Democratic party’s is because there’s no guarantee that it’d work. Nancy Pelosi is despised by pretty much half of the population; John Boehner is ‘only’ just despised by two-fifths. The Democrats just don’t have the same room to maneuver on this one.
PS: Nancy Pelosi should have retired after the 2010 election. She really should have retired after the 2012 election. That she did not do so on either occasion is marvelous news for the GOP, but not as much as her apparent mulish refusal to retire this cycle. Ach, well, the Democrats no doubt picked the jackass as their party symbol for a reason.
*Also notice that you can make a case that Mitch McConnell is the best-liked leader in Congress. If only because he’s the only one of the bunch who is enjoying the indifference of a plurality of the electorate.