Even as Nancy Pelosi emerged from her dinner with President Donald Trump at the White House last night flexing her newfound political muscles over immigration policy, a new Berkeley IGS poll finds California Democrats are ready for new party leadership.
According to the survey, whether Democrats regain control of the House or not in 2018, less than one-third of California Democrats want their party to keep Pelosi as leader.
If the party remains in the minority, 50 percent of rank-and-file Democrats say it's time for new leadership, while just 31 percent want to keep Pelosi as minority leader.
But even if they retake the majority, 44 percent of Democrats still say it's time for a new party leader, while 30 percent prefer sticking with the San Francisco Democrat.
"They believe Pelosi is a liability when it comes to Democrats' chances in certain congressional districts to win those competitive seats," says pollster Mark DiCamillo. "That's the downside they see. Their priority to is to regain control of Congress."
DiCamillo emphasizes that Democrats are so unhappy with Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress that they're desperate to win back the House.
"The general feeling is that Pelosi is being used by the Republicans as a lightning rod and that isn't helpful," DiCamillo added, noting the poll was conducted before the president's recent deals on raising the debt ceiling and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) with Pelosi and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.
"It’s not her competence voters don't like," DiCamillo says. "She's certainly demonstrated that" with last night's dramatic announcement of a tentative deal on protecting the so-called DACA dreamers. "It's the larger issue of regaining control of the House," DiCamillo stressed.
One could say the things Pelosi does best -- political strategizing, campaign fundraising and keeping her caucus together on tough votes -- are the things most voters don't see. It's the things she does less well -- like TV talk show interviews and press conferences -- that shape the public's view of her more than anything.
Earlier this year, Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan took a run at replacing Pelosi as party leader, but lost by a vote of 134-63. Still, for a relatively unknown House member to get nearly a third of the caucus votes signaled discontent with Pelosi.
But now, with Trump's pivot to cutting deals with "Chuck and Nancy" as he calls them, Pelosi's hold on power seems as strong as ever.
Pelosi still enjoys the support of many Democratic members of Congress. Bay Area Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren said Pelosi has "done a very good job" leading the caucus.
"There’s no tougher negotiator in the House than Nancy Pelosi," she said. "Republicans are going to criticize whoever the Democratic leader is... but I will say this: When she goes in to negotiate with Republicans, she is not a wimp and she comes back with proven results."
As for her recent losses at the ballot box?
"That's not the main part of the job," Lofgren said. “The main part of the job is eating the lunch of Republicans."