SAN FRANCISCO — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spent her final day on the midterm campaign trail rallying volunteers in her home base and urging Democrats to stay focused as they fight to capture the House of Representatives.
Democratic candidates shouldn’t let President Trump distract them with provocative rhetoric about immigration, Pelosi told about 100 volunteers at a campaign office in the heart of the Castro District on Saturday.
Trump wants voters to “think the Democrats are all about impeachment, investigation, caravans, ‘scaravans,'” she said. “Don’t take the bait, just stick with health care, good-paying jobs, and clean government.”
Her appearance, in a former Pottery Barn that San Francisco Democrats have transformed into an election war room, capped a cross-country campaign swing stumping for Democratic candidates and meeting activists.
Dozens of volunteers wearing rainbow flag wristbands emblazoned with Pelosi’s name called and texted voters in competitive districts in California and around the country, urging them to get to the polls. Whenever a voter on the line said they were backing Democrats, volunteers rang a bell and burst into cheers.
Pelosi radiated optimism that her party will take back the House. In an interview, she said Trump’s doubling down on divisive immigration messages like ending birthright citizenship and sending troops to the U.S.-Mexican border amounted to “scare tactics.”
“It’s tried and true with his base,” Pelosi said. “What’s sad about it is he’s not telling the truth.”
In light of the pipe bombs sent to prominent critics of the president, Pelosi argued that it was especially important for Democrats to stand up to Trump “condoning the use of violence.”
“As president, he doesn’t realize that his words weigh a ton and that they fall on some ears that may be more fragile than he might imagine,” Pelosi said. “He thinks he’s funny when he says some of these things, but the consequences falling on the wrong ears are not funny, they’re tragic.”
If Democrats win back the House, she said, they’ll be able to “say, ‘okay, take a deep breath, calm this rhetoric down,’ because it has no place in a democracy,” she added.
Nearly as soon as the polls close on Tuesday night, Pelosi will face another campaign: One to keep her job as the Democratic leader in the House. She voiced confidence that her caucus would hand her the speaker’s gavel once again, despite the fact that dozens of Democratic incumbents and candidates have called for new leadership.
“Listen, if Hillary had won, I’d be jubilant to go home,” Pelosi said. “I was shocked that she didn’t win — I still can’t get over it, especially in terms of who she lost to.”
But with Trump in the Oval Office, she said she felt a responsibility to fight for issues like protecting the Affordable Care Act, “which I feel very proprietary about,” as well as making sure there’s “a woman at the table.”
“None of us are indispensable, but some of us are just better at what we do,” she said. “That’s my case.”
Pelosi’s busy Castro headquarters was plastered with district maps and posters declaring her the “best speaker ever.” Susan Pfeifer, a volunteer leader who lives in the Outer Sunset, said the enthusiasm from San Francisco activists this year felt more like a presidential election than a midterm.
“People are coming out because they care about taking back the House and turning this country around,” she said, calling Pelosi an “inspiring leader.”
While some Democrats have worried that putting Pelosi at the party’s helm hurts them in GOP-leaning districts, the longtime leader insisted she wasn’t bothered by what she described as her “vilification around the country” in Republican attack ads.
“I don’t mind when they say things about me like I’m a liberal. I like that,” Pelosi said. “But when they say ‘San Francisco liberal’ as if to make it sound like it’s something negative, them’s fighting words. Don’t attack my city! San Francisco values, that’s what we’re about.”
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