by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Republican Party has adopted hatchetman Tim Griffin's campaign pitch that this set of Arkansas congressional elections is about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She's from San Francisco, after all, and, well, you can take it from there.
In light of the howling GOPers, this analysis by Nate Silver is interesting. Many people don't know who she is. Many don't care. Republicans in Congress have no better favorable ratings. Furthermore:
Nancy Pelosi is not a political celebrity, nor is she as confrontational as Gingrich. She is a polarizing figure, but polarizing for voters who have already been polarized one way or the other. If Tim Burns, Doug Hoffman and Jim Tedisco have taught Republicans anything, it should be that they can't count on a tide of anti-Democrat fervor at the expense of ignoring local issues. Contrast these two ads from last November's NY-23 election: the Conservative Hoffman plays up his anti-Pelosi, anti-Washington credentials, while the Democrat Bill Owens talks about bread and butter issues--literally. (The dairy video was removed for unlicensed use of the Got Milk? trademark.) Hoffman's stances made him the darling of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but his attacks on big government were tone-deaf in a district whose economy is dependent on an army base, the Border Patrol, and several state prisons and universities.
All politics is still local, and the Democrats have succeeded in the last dozen special House elections (with the exception of the Hawaii anomaly) by running candidates attuned to their districts. Republicans have run a uniform anti-Pelosi/Washington/Democrat/spending/stimulus/health care campaign--and lost. Even in a wave election, the House is not the British House of Commons: Americans vote for their Congressperson, not the party leader. 2010 may yet be a great year for Republicans (and Nate still thinks it will be), but they might want to start worrying less about Nancy Pelosi and more about the price of milk.
There's good advice in this, too, for Democrats. I'm thinking about you, Robbie Wills. You could stand to be a little more attuned to your potential district.