Rep. Nancy Pelosi Back In Driver's Seat

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appears to command more votes in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations than the speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner of Ohio.

That's because the San Francisco Democrat leads a unified caucus whose votes will be needed to pass any deal to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts come Jan. 1.

Boehner's Republicans, by contrast, are rebellious and fractured, having abandoned their leader.

That Pelosi should control the majority from the minority is a huge embarrassment to Republicans and a powerful lever for Obama.

"She has her caucus more in lockstep with the White House than Boehner does with himself," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "In the House, there's no way around it. Unless fiscal conservatives say, 'All right, I see the greater strategy here,' there is no way to do this without votes from Pelosi's caucus."

"A lot of fiscal conservatives feel that they don't want to compromise principle, and for them, raising tax rates violates their principle," O'Connell said. "Personally, I think that game theory may be a lost art among fiscal conservatives. They don't recognize that Boehner was trying to move the ball down the field by lobbing Plan B to the Senate so he could minimize what Obama's political victory would be.

Read more from Carolyn Lochhead at the San Francisco Chronicle

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Analysis & Political Strategy