Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco. Photo by Ben Christopher for CALmatters

In summary

Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still wants her old job back, telling a San Francisco forum: “I say this immodestly, but I want women to be immodest in this way: I’m a master legislator. Nobody wants to sit across the table from me.”

In downtown San Francisco today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reconfirmed—as she’s been saying for months—that she wants her old job back. Her bid seems to guarantee that regardless of which party emerges victorious in the November midterm elections, the favored contender to become Speaker of the House will be a Californian.

“I say this immodestly, but I want women to be immodest in this way: I’m a master legislator. Nobody wants to sit across the table from me,” she said at a lunchtime event sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California. “I think I’m probably the best person for the job.”

Current GOP Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan is stepping down this fall, leaving the nation’s third-ranking political office open. His most likely replacements: either Republican House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy from Bakersfield or Pelosi, who was speaker from 2007 to 2011—attaining the highest political office held by a woman in U.S. history.

And with polling and prognosticators predicting a political “blue wave” of anti-Trump fervor, the smart money may be on Pelosi.

Liberal, wealthy and from bluest San Francisco, Pelosi is a favorite foil of Republican candidates and strategists hoping to depict the Democratic Party as out of touch and dominated by effete, coastal elites. She’s been cast as a villain in political ads for many GOP candidates running for Congress, and a growing number of Democrats in close races have said they would not support her for speaker again, calling for the party to infuse itself with younger leaders. She has publicly signaled that she won’t press fellow Democrats for their support yet, declaring: “I say to candidates: Do whatever you have to do, just win, baby.”

But today Pelosi did her best to present her party as a high-minded, bipartisan-inclined, and pragmatic alternative to the status quo.

She quoted President Ronald Reagan and spoke favorably of President George W. Bush. She promised to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act while decrying the “unfortunate” federal tax law changes. And she vowed to restore an environment of comity on Capitol Hill should the Democrats win the House and should she become its leader.

“What we will be about is not treating Republicans the way they treat us,” she said.

At the same time, she stepped back from the more controversial policy positions advanced by progressives within her party. She swatted down proposals to abolish the Immigrant and Customs Enforcement agency (“that’s probably popular here, but it isn’t what we should be doing as a nation”) and questioned the realism of moving to a national single-payer health insurance system, though she was careful not to dismiss the idea entirely. Earlier in the day, she said that impeaching the president should not be a political priority for the party.

Even if Democrats net the 23 necessary congressional districts needed to reclaim control of the House, Pelosi may not be a shoe-in to replace Ryan. As the Los Angeles Times reported in June, Democrats in many of California’s most competitive seats have been reluctant to endorse her.

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Ben Christopher

Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and budget. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has written...