Nancy Pelosi was a staple of Republican campaign ads in the 2010 midterm elections that led to her ouster as speaker of the House.
But even out of power, the San Francisco Democrat is the featured villain in what has become the first major electoral test of 2011, a special Congressional election in western New York.
The National Republican Congressional Committee's first television ad of the race in the state's 26th district, launched Monday (see below), portrays both Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul and independent candidate Jack Davis, who once ran for this seat as a Democrat but now styles himself a "tea party" conservative, as Pelosi puppets.
It quotes Hochul as saying Pelosi has "done a great job for this country," and then claims the 2009 stimulus program failed to produce new jobs in western New York.
"Jack and Kathy can't fight for us, and they come with strings attached," it says.
Unlike Tuesday's special election to replace Jane Harman in California's 36th District, the New York race has emerged as a test case in the evolving debates in Washington over the budget and spending.
"Corwin supports a budget that essentially ends Medicare," the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad says. It also attacks Davis for saying Social Security benefits "may have to be adjusted down."
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has campaigned with Corwin. Pelosi, now the House minority leader, recently attended a New York City fundraiser benefitting Hochul's campaign. Third-party groups like American Crossroads, founded by Karl Rove, have also gotten involved.
The seat leans Republican, but a poll commissioned by the liberal website Daily Kos showed Hochul leading Corwin and Davis, and internal polling is said to similarly show a tight race. Though it would barely shift the balance of power, Democrats would tout a victory as an indication of the shifting political winds, while Republicans would portray a GOP win as an endorsement of the House majority's record.
The May 24 special election was called following the resignation of Republican Chris Lee after the release of emails he sent posing as a divorced lobbyist in response to an online personal ad. One email included a shirtless photo of the married congressman.
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