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Pelosi, Torture and the GOP Comeback

Greg Sargent has the scoop on an internal GOP poll that tests the effectiveness of attacks on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) credibility on the question of whether the CIA told the truth about torture — a problem, to be fair, that Pelosi created for herself with a series of confusing explanations. By almost a 2-1 margin, voters believe the CIA over Pelosi. Sargent:

[I]t all but guarantees that Republicans will keep banging away on the torture drum. So if you hear more GOP criticism of Pelosi along these lines, you’ll know why.

On cue, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) attacks Pelosi on the CIA issue. The torture debate provided the first real opening for Republicans to transform Pelosi into a scandalous figure, after two years of stories (her plane, her book deal) that didn’t make a dent. But the jury’s out on the political effectiveness of this. If the eventual goal is to drag down swing-district Democrats by tying them to Pelosi, the GOP has to ask: How much will voters care about waterboarding in November 2010? The story already seems pretty stale.

No one thinks the election will turn on that; everyone thinks it’ll turn on the economy. When Newt Gingrich became a troublesome figure for the Republicans of 1996, it was because his transgressions hit voters on issues closer to home — Medicare cuts, for example — and because he made himself a larger-than-life national figure, while Pelosi stays relatively quiet. When’s the last time she did a Sunday morning news show?

The poll has promising numbers for Republicans, but this might still be the kind of story that lights up Washington while falling 11th or 12th in voters’ minds when they go to the polls.

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