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A "pelosi-reid-obama" Strategy?

Call me crazy, but I don't think this is going to work: Politico reports that Republicans on Capitol Hill are planning to launch a publicity blitz aimed at tying Barack Obama to...Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. (And you thought Jeremiah Wright was a toxic association!) One particularly out-of-touch GOP aide boasted, "By November, every American voter will know the name of Charlie Rangel the way they knew Tom DeLay in 2006. Count on it." Now, I'm sure Charlie Rangel is despised among that critical group of swing voters made up of Republican Hill staffers. Back in the real world, though, Tom DeLay became a household name thanks to his massive, brazen corruption, and making the unknown, grandfatherly chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee the prime villain of your general election campaign is not what you'd typically call a winning strategy. ("Vote Republican...because Charlie Rangel's plan to cut corporate tax rates is somewhat less optimal than our plan to cut corporate tax rates!")

It's true that there are circumstances under which you can mount a national campaign against congressional leadership: When there's endemic and widely reported ethical misconduct on the Hill concentrated primarily in one party; when Congress has taken deeply unpopular, high-profile legislative action; and when there's no presidential election to steal the spotlight. Unfortunately for the GOP, none of those circumstances is present this year (despite Eric Cantor's frankly bizarre reference to "Democrats' corruption, cronyism and K Street intimidation project").

Instead, what you have is a Congress people are unhappy with because it hasn't really done anything, mostly thanks to excessive Republican filibustering and veto threats. Pelosi certainly isn't popular, but sentiment toward her is what you'd call tepid. In the most recent assessment I can find, the Harris poll back in February, a plurality ranked her performance as "only fair" and only 23 percent deemed it "poor" (both Bush and Republicans in Congress earned much worse numbers). The fact that Congress's generic approval ratings are at an all-time low (in large part because Democrats dislike it even more than Republicans do) doesn't mean that targeting Pelosi and Reid specifically is going to be successful. But, by all means, Republicans are welcome to try.

--Josh Patashnik