One in three Republican campaign ads attack the same woman: Nancy Pelosi

An ad from the Pennsylvania special election.
An ad from the Pennsylvania special election.
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Democratic congress member Nancy Pelosi has become a top target of Republican campaign ads, which portray her as a big-spending liberal and a member of San Francisco’s elite.

The 78-year-old house minority speaker has a track record as a powerhouse fundraiser for the Democratic party, and was the first woman to be named Speaker of the House in 2007. She has been targeted in 34% of Republican advertisements this year, up from 9% last year, according to data Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group provided to USA Today.


Republicans’ recent special election campaigns were even more focused on attacking Pelosi: She was mentioned in 58% of GOP ads for Pennsylvania’s 18th district this year (Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate won), and 55% of GOP ads for the 2017 Georgia 6th district election (Karen Handel, the Republican candidate won). Here’s one from the Pennsylvania election:

The strategy mirrors Republicans’ successful attack advertising push during the 2016 presidential campaign, with Pelosi subbing in for Hillary Clinton—a similarity that’s deliberate, Republican strategists say.

In 2016, many Republican donors and political action committees spent more attacking Clinton than promoting Trump. The NRA, for example spent $19.8 million on ads attacking Clinton, more than it did on ads supporting Trump and all other Republicans combined ($14.5 million).

Republican strategists could face a tough fight in the 2018 midterms to retain control of the House of Representatives, and they say they’re counting on Pelosi’s unpopularity to help them campaign. Pelosi has one of the lowest popularity ratings among Congress members, according to multiple polls, and also faces pressure from inside her own party to make way for a younger politician.

Like all 435 members of the House, Pelosi needs to win an election in 2018 to remain in Congress. If Democrats regain a majority in the House, and she is named Speaker of the House again, she’d likely be the most powerful Democrat in Congress.

If Hillary Clinton were back on the ballot, Republicans could “probably relax” in the run-up to the 2018 elections, one GOP strategist told Quartz, because they could fuel GOP voter ire against her. At least there’s Pelosi to campaign against, he said.