Many Republican House candidates are running against Nancy Pelosi, but only John Dennis of San Francisco is going head to head with the Speaker of the House on Election Day. How does a Republican defeat a San Francisco liberal and one of the most powerful people in the federal government?
“You don’t talk yourself out of being able to win,” Dennis said in an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD in Washington. “You pretend that it’s not that hard.”
But it really is that hard. Pelosi won 72 percent of the vote in California’s Eighth Congressional District in 2008. Her Republican challenger didn’t even come in second; that consolation prize went to Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar activist who ran as an independent and earned a paltry 16 percent of the vote.
But Dennis, a businessman who says he’s in “that Barry Goldwater wing” of the GOP, is nevertheless attempting to defeat a sitting speaker for the first time since Tom Foley (who was also the last Democratic speaker) lost in 1994. Dennis will be outspent and outmatched in terms of name recognition, so he’s going about campaigning a bit differently.
In September, the Dennis campaign released a video advertisement featuring the characters from The Wizard of Oz, with an actress portraying Pelosi as the Wicked Witch of the West. The goofy, campy video, produced by the same folks who made Alabama agriculture commissioner candidate Dale Peterson a household name, went viral. “Humor can be a great way of taking down barriers,” said Dennis, who hopes voters in the district consider a Republican with a sense of humor.
(The video, which received more than 650,000 views, has since been removed from YouTube after a complaint made by EMI Publishing. A copy of the video can be viewed here.)
Dennis says the ad has been received well among Republican donors. “It’s paid for itself,” he said.
A self-proclaimed fan of Ayn Rand and enemy of government bailouts and spending, Dennis admires Ron Paul most among House members. “He inspired me to get involved in politics,” Dennis said.
While the Dennis campaign is going full speed ahead with radio ads and get out the vote drives, it will probably take more than quirky YouTube videos and a de-energized progressive base to sweep Pelosi out of power. But for the political fantasies of Republicans and conservatives, Dennis provides a delightful image: “Is there any other concession speech you’d like to see than Nancy Pelosi’s?”