In most election years the conventional wisdom would be that a Democrat incumbent in ultra-left San Francisco with the high profile of Nancy Pelosi would be virtually unassailable. In the past, Republican challengers for her House seat have been lucky to top 20% in the polls and haven’t been able to raise enough money to cover trolley fare.
This year things are different. Her challenger is John Dennis who is a Liberty Republican and former Vice Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of California. While Pelosi supports the nanny state and foreign wars, Dennis is anti-war, in favor of gay marriage and has endorsed Proposition 19 and the legalization of marijuana. In any other part of the country a Republican like Dennis (and there are more of them than you realize) would be avoiding those issues and focusing on jobs and the economy, but Dennis is in the unique position where he can effectively run to the left of Pelosi on social issues and to her right on fiscal issues.
The situation in San Francisco makes me envious of John Dennis. I wish I could be there campaigning for him and voting for him. I’ve done what I can by appearing on several of his radiothon fundraisers, but I wish that Liberty Republicans everywhere could have the luxury he has to be open about his beliefs and have it be an advantage rather than a gamble.
Dennis has done remarkably well in his campaign. He has drawn in money from all over the country, including support from many mainstream Republican organizations which just want to see Pelosi’s feet held to the fire. He has raised over $2 million while Pelosi has raised barely a third as much and is hardly even campaigning, taking victory for granted.
But is her reelection a sure thing? Voters in San Francisco may have lost confidence in Pelosi. It’s already a certainty that she will no longer be Speaker of the House, and rumors are circulating that she plans to retire after her next term. Her approval ratings are at record lows and she’s avoiding San Francisco and spending her time campaigning for other losing Democrats and ignoring her own constituents. Why should they remain loyal to her when they have a better candidate on the ballot?
Dennis is running a creative media campaign which has drawn substantial national attention, especially for a TV ad which shows Pelosi as the Wicked Witch of the West with flying monkeys who are IRS agents. It’s the kind of clever guerilla ad you can afford to do when you’re twenty points down in the polls.
While there is certainly hope that Dennis can pull off what would be the greatest upset in recent political history, it’s more than we can count on even in a year which has already seen its share of remarkable political events. Yet whatever else happens there’s no question that Dennis has run a superlative campaign, raised awareness of key issues, brought diverse elements of the fractured Republican Party together and set an example for other Republicans to follow. He has taken the fight to the enemy against overwhelming odds and never shown weakness.
In a very important sense, Dennis has already won, even if the votes go against him. By running such a devastating campaign against Nancy Pelosi and by doing it on core Republican Principles of small government and individual liberty, the national attention which Dennis has attracted has made his campaign the model for others all over the nation this year and in 2012. Dennis may lose this battle with Pelosi, but he has shown the way for winning the war for liberty, and this may also be the beginning of a very bright political future for him.