CHARLOTTE — Nancy Pelosi has spent as much time as any Democratic leader trying to overcome Republican legislators’ opposition to President Obama’s agenda. And she has some news for the White House: It’s not going to get any easier if he wins.
“I think the president is who he is,” the Democratic minority leader said at a breakfast Wednesday morning hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “He is an extraordinary leader who is respectful of other people’s opinion, and projects that decency on them that they might be respectful of his opinion.”
The only problem? “It’s never going to happen,” Pelosi said.
Obama has suggested that Republicans might be more open to negotiations if he wins, likening it to popping a blister.
“I believe that in a second term, where Mitch McConnell’s imperative of making me a one-term president is no longer relevant, they recognize that what the American people are looking for is for us to get things done,” the president told Time magazine in a recent interview.
Pelosi noted that the president’s job requires him to keep some distance from the partisan fray, but she repeated that he shouldn’t stake his agenda on Republican attitudes changing.
“I see this president sit for hours being very respectable, but trying to find a path where there could be agreement when there is [none],” she said. “‘Never. Does never work for you?’ That’s really what they’re saying to the president.”
Instead of heading to the negotiating table, Pelosi suggested that Obama focus on rallying public opinion as a means to force Republicans’ hands.
“Public sentiment is everything,” she said. “It’s not a question of trying to persuade or outflank them, you just have to take it to the American people.”
She cited two recent policy fights, an extension of a payroll tax cut and extending lower student-loan interest rates, as examples where the president toured the country explaining the issue to voters and ultimately prevailed.
“Every time he went public … he won the debate,” she said. “Those kinds of things have been much more effective than trying to say to the Republicans, ‘What is it that we can do together?’”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.