MISSOULA, Mont. – The north Atlanta suburbs that comprise Georgia’s 6th congressional district lie some 2,000 miles from this funky college town nestled between snow-capped Rocky peaks. But turn on the television in both and the same polarizing figure appears again and again, and no, it isn’t the president.
Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat and first female speaker of the House, is being invoked over and over again as a political slur in attack ads that blanket both districts in the lead-up to nationally-watched special elections to replace two now-Cabinet officials, Tom Price and Ryan Zinke.
Outside Republican groups that have poured millions into both races such as the National Republican Congressional Committee and Paul Ryan-aligned super PAC the Congressional Leadership Fund are banking that by tying the House minority leader to the contests’ Democratic candidates, Rob Quist in Montana and Jon Ossoff in Georgia, that they can limit their appeal to independents or Republicans dissatisfied with President Donald Trump.
“Rob Quist talks folksy, but his record is more Nancy Pelosi than Montana,” began a recent spot bankrolled by the Congressional Leadership Fund.
It’s one of several similar ads that have aired on TV and radio here recently. It’s also not too different from spots those same groups have rolled out on the Atlanta airwaves.
“We already have Nancy Pelosi as our Congresswoman,” says one, “now you’re going to give us Jon Ossoff as our Congressman.”
The GOP groups are looking to capitalize off Pelosi’s polarizing nature. She’s loathed by Republicans for ushering through Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul during her tenure as House speaker, and many argue she cut them out of the negotiating process during such meaty policy debates. Maddie Anderson of the NRCC said Pelosi “represents the most extreme wing of the Democratic party.”
Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for the Congressional Leadership Fund, said Quist and Ossoff would be “nothing more than rubber stamps for Pelosi’s failed liberal agenda, and voters deserve to know they will stand with Pelosi, not them.”
Democrats have dismissed the attacks as sexist and indicative of the fact that the GOP lacks legislative accomplishments, a sentiment echoed by Pelosi herself earlier this spring.
“Clearly, House Republicans recognize they have no message to run on in the midterms and they’re desperately grasping at straws,” said Meredith Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.