AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Democrats are increasingly confident that they'll win back control of the House of Representatives. If that happens, those looking for new leadership are going to have to keep looking. Nancy Pelosi announced that she would run again to be speaker. NPR's lead political editor Domenico Montanaro says that decision is certain to have an impact on this year's elections. He joins me in the studio now. Hey there, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Thanks, Audie.
CORNISH: So first give me the exact (laughter) terms that Nancy Pelosi used today.
MONTANARO: Well, Pelosi told The Boston Globe that she's confident Democrats will win back control of the House this fall. And she said in no uncertain terms, I will run for speaker. And then she added that "it's important that it not be five white guys at the table - no offense. I have no intention of walking away from that table," close quote. The five white guys she's talking about there of course would be the two Republican leaders in Congress, the two Democratic ones and President Trump.
CORNISH: Is this all that much of a surprise? I mean, she's never been interested in walking away.
MONTANARO: Well, she hasn't been interested in walking away. But there have been big calls for Pelosi to step aside, especially from younger activists who feel like the party looks more like yesterday rather than tomorrow. And they've been trying to push her to think about...
CORNISH: Is that a dig at diversity?
MONTANARO: (Laughter) No. And so the point is that they feel like that there are people who are - the three top leaders in the House are all over 70 years old and that they would like to see millennials and younger people, who've been waiting for a while and have - and feel like that these older generation of Democrats have been standing in the way.
CORNISH: She is a politician with three - with 30 years of experience under her belt, right? I mean, that can't be all bad for the party.
MONTANARO: No, definitely not. Pelosi's got a lot of strengths. I mean, she's one of the strongest fundraisers in the party, if not the strongest. She's raised $16 million just in the first quarter alone here. And that can't be discounted in a year when Democrats are looking to win back the House. You know, she's been at the helm of the Democratic party since when Democrats took over the House in 2007. She shepherded key legislation for President Barack Obama through really a fractious cautious - caucus with no drama whatsoever, which is not something Republican leaders can say for sure.
You know, a Democratic operative I spoke with today said that no one is better at getting and counting votes than she is and contended that no one would be better at getting things done with Trump as president. You could argue that. But they think that she's pretty tough, can get things done.
Another Democrat, though, described her as easily the most effective speaker in a generation but added, I do think it's time to usher in a new era. And even the earlier Democrat that I talked to said that he thinks that she should step aside in 2020 when President Trump is running for re-election.
CORNISH: She is also easily a political villain - right? - to Republicans.
MONTANARO: Yeah. And this is the big reason why they would like to see the air sort of taken out of that because, you know, San Francisco liberal is something you hear in Republican ads, ad after ad, in swing districts. And it's not used as a compliment. You know, one analysis found that one out of every three ads this cycle, Republican ads this cycle, are using Pelosi's image to attack the Democrat that's running. There's reasons that they do this.
Republicans found that Pelosi's the most unpopular figure in those swing districts. An NBC national poll earlier in March found that she's the least popular person or institution, that of everyone that they rated, her approval rating's in the 20s, lower than both political parties and even President Trump. That's why Democrats in swing districts, the places that Democrats need to win to take back the House, are distancing themselves from Pelosi. One Republican operative I talked to today said he's ecstatic that Pelosi is going to try to run for speaker again if they win.
CORNISH: Is that enough to win midterms?
MONTANARO: I mean, that's the big question, right? Just running against Pelosi is going to open up Republicans to criticism that they don't have a message.
CORNISH: Domenico, thanks so much.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.
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