Byline: Lois Romano
The newly reenergized House minority leader could prove crucial to Obama in 2012.
It's been a rough year for Nancy Pelosi. The California Democrat had to surrender her speaker's gavel in January after the largest loss of Democratic seats in the House in 70 years. Some in her own party blamed the policies she pursued for the bloodbath. And if that wasn't bad enough, the White House relegated her to the sidelines as President Obama sought to cut fleeting deals with Republicans. "Look, it's been frustrating," says her friend and ally Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.). "But she's not one to lick her wounds."
That was abundantly clear last week when Pelosi once again demonstrated her wily political skills. Opposed to a stopgap spending bill that offset increased disaster aid with cuts to a program that made loans to car companies, the minority leader capitalized on the ideological discord plaguing the GOP and persuaded her caucus to join 48 renegade Republicans in withholding the votes needed to pass the measure. The result was an embarrassing defeat for Speaker John Boehner, demonstrating how little control he has over House Republicans. (Boehner publicly scrambled to convince a handful of members that they should change their minds for a vote early Friday, but the Senate rejected it later in the day.)
After nine months in the wilderness, Pelosi seems to have found her footing and her voice. At 71, she is careening around the country using the same tactics that helped propel her to the speaker's job in 2006--slamming Republicans and talking about America's tradition of helping the disenfranchised. She has raised nearly $20 million this year for congressional races--proving again that she is one of the best fundraisers in either party.
In a series of conversations Pelosi told Newsweek she has urged Obama to finally take off the gloves and fight for core Democratic priorities. She's also had many conversations with White House chief of staff William Daley. In the last few weeks, Obama seems to be heeding the advice, pushing an aggressive jobs bill, proposing to increase taxes on millionaires, and vowing to protect Social …