This is especially significant because, other than President Obama, Nancy Pelosi is the best-known and most visible public face of the Democratic Party....and other than Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds Jr. was the best ballplayer son of Bobby Bonds.
It's early yet in postelection analysis, but I'll take any wager offered that at the end of the day, opinions of Nancy Pelosi will turn out to have absolutely no explanatory power on the 2010 vote. Zero.
Now, one can make the case that the policy choices the Democrats made in 2009-2010 hurt them. And one could even make the case that Pelosi moved House Democrats too far to the left, although I think that's a lot harder to show; I don't think there's a lot of evidence that what they actually did is far to the left of where House moderates are. For example, as far as I know no Member of the House got in trouble for supporting radical stuff in the original House health care bill that was stripped by the Senate. Whatever the effects of health care on the 2010 elections, it was based on a bill that won the support of Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, and Ben Nelson.
Now, I do think that Dave Weigel has some good questions about Pelosi, including:
Progressives have convinced themselves that Pelosi's Democrats were unfairly punished because the Senate didn't act on the legislation she passed. Well, sure. But I assume she could have gotten senators on the phone.to ask whether the bills she was passing had chances of success. What was the point of passing a cap and trade bill far more painful to coal country and business than the one that Democrats knew could get through the Senate?It's a good question -- but there may be a good answer. It may be that Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the White House were in fact working closely on climate/energy, but someone -- not Pelosi -- did a lousy job of counting votes in the Senate. It could be that the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic caucus knew exactly what was likely, but still wanted to take the risk of passing the bill. I don't know, and I'd love to see good research about House/Senate relations during the 111th Congress. I do think there's a good chance that Pelosi and Reid and the White House erred repeatedly in that area, but we need more information.
Regardless, that's all about how good Pelosi really is at playing the inside game. Galston considers it to be "common sense" that the public relations aspects of the job are more important, but he's going to need some evidence for that beyond Pelosi's lousy poll ratings. There's no reason to believe that voters thought they were choosing a Speaker when they voted, and lots of evidence over the years that such things are unlikely to matter. Even if she is the second most visible Democrat.