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Pelosi Campaigns in ‘Red’ States

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heads out on a coast-to-coast campaign tour Saturday for a final pre-election push, hitting at least 12 states on behalf of 17 of Democrats’ top House candidates.

Pelosi’s three-week barnstorming tour, which includes multiple stops in the South and West as well as visits to both coasts, begins this weekend with appearances for candidates in Georgia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. She then plans to head to Minnesota, New York and Connecticut, and then back west to stump for candidates in Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona.

Pelosi will round out her travels in Pennsylvania, Washington and Oregon. Other states are likely to be added to the trip as it becomes more clear when Congress will actually adjourn, Democratic leadership aides said.

The Minority Leader, who has spent the better part of this Congress fundraising for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, now says she is placing the majority of her energy on stumping for challengers.

Pelosi has raised $30 million so far this cycle for the DCCC, and while she plans to raise more, she admits she is now free to spend her time on the stump.

“We are trying very hard to respond to all the invitations we have from the candidates,” Pelosi said last week. “When you go in, they want you to come back, but we have to go to some other places as well.”

DCCC Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.) said the party committee has asked her to hit the trail for some of its top candidates in the waning weeks of the election. He added that Pelosi’s presence in the most competitive districts adds a much-needed punch for the party and the candidate at a critical time.

“We told her to remain flexible and she is flexible,” Matsui said. “There may be other opportunities opening up well beyond where we are already going. The 17 districts in these states is just a start. These are the ones where we say, ‘We really need you there.’”

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the GOP is similarly focused on Election Day, noting that throughout the entire year all House leaders from Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on down have hit the stump for key candidates. Those leaders, he said, are ready to expand their majority on Nov. 2.

“I hope Ms. Pelosi enjoys her trip around the country surveying her minority,” Forti said. “It will be the same minority after Election Day.”

Pelosi began traveling nearly full time during the first part of the August recess and said she is now “trying to use my time as effectively as possible to cover as many districts as possible.”

Since mid-August, Pelosi has traveled to 11 states including Washington, Colorado, Arizona, Iowa and New Mexico. Overall, she has hit 103 different cities over the two-year election cycle, a tour that included 126 fundraisers for House candidates.

Her final swing will feature stops in many of the same places where House leaders believe they have the best chance at netting the 12 seats needed to gain the majority. Pelosi said by hitting states for challengers, she helps show the party is committed to their races and can help them heighten their profiles and raise money.

“The fact the leader of the party goes in means that it is a priority race,” she explained. “And, it brings visibility to a candidate.”

Other House leaders are also putting their time in for candidates. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has spent much of the cycle stumping for challengers, and he also will shift into overdrive for candidates in the coming weeks. Hoyer plans multiple stops for challengers and candidates in Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee and New York.

House leaders said they recognize fights for seats are waged and won locally, but they believe their visits can put candidates and their local priorities in a national context — key to showing that the candidate will have early influence on those topics in Congress.

Pelosi said she benefits from the travels as well, hearing the local concerns of candidates and constituents. For her part, Pelosi said she is using the chance to speak to Democratic legislative priorities, show the contrast between the minority party and the GOP, and try to entice voters to go to the polls.

“When I go, it’s about message and mobilization,” she said. “I talk at the grassroots level and try to energize [voters]. I tell them about our successes in [special elections in] South Dakota and Kentucky. I tell them that this election will be won by broadening the universe of likely voters.”

Pelosi was referring to Democratic victories in special elections this cycle, where Reps. Stephanie Herseth (S.D.) and Ben Chandler (Ky.) won previously Republican-held seats.

The California Democrat said that beyond lending support for Democratic candidates, she also is gaining support for her own future in a majority.

“Fathers of daughters are coming to these events, and bringing their daughters to these events,” she said. “They are excited about the idea of the first female Speaker. It’s sort of overwhelming to me to see the response.”

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