MINNEAPOLIS -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, during a stop at the University of Minnesota Tuesday, sounded upbeat about Democrats making significant gains in Congress.
In fact, she said if the election were held today -- amid the chaos in the presidential race -- Democrats could recapture the majority in the US House, something that seemed highly improbable a few months ago.
"We have great mobilization, we have great messengers, our candidates are superb -- I’m very proud of them. It’s not as if all of a sudden this opportunity came along -- the disarray in the Republican party," Rep. Pelosi told reporters.
"But that's today. We have four weeks left. What I worry about is the influx of unidentified, big special interest money, just coming in to confuse."
Pelosi was in the Twin Cities for fundraisers Monday evening, and then on Tuesday headlined a forum at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, fielding questions from Professor Larry Jacobs and audience members.
She predicted Hillary Clinton will capture the White House in November and become the nation's first female president.
"I’ve been called the most powerful, highest ranking woman in American history. And I am so happy to be relinquishing that title!" Pelosi quipped.
She gave a shout-out to two local Democratic congressional candidates, Terri Bonoff and Angie Craig, who are locked into competitive races attracting a lot of outside money.
Bonoff, who has served 11 years in the Minnesota Senate, is challenging four-term incumbent Republican Erik Paulsen in the 3rd District of the west Twin Cities metro. Craig, an medical device company executive and political newcomer, faces long-time conservative talk radio personality Jason Lewis in the 2nd District, which stretches from the south Metro suburbs into rural southeastern Minnesota.
Jacobs asked Pelosi what she makes of the fact Bonoff and Craig haven't committed yet to supporting her for House Speaker if the Democrats regain control of the House. Pelosi had no trouble with the idea.
"Let us take this one step at a time. Let them win their elections.That is what’s really important," Pelosi explained. "It’s hard enough to be out there putting yourself on the line.This is not for the faint of heart."
Many of the national ads targeting Paulsen and Lewis have tried to link them to Donald Trump. After the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood video, in which Trump can be heard bragging about being able to grope women because he's a star, Paulsen announced he won't vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton.
But Pelosi said Republicans trying to distance themselves from Trump the man shouldn't catch a break from voters, because Trump and House Republicans share many of the same policy positions.
"What Donald Trump has been saying is what many in the Congress have been saying for a long time," she asserted.
"Even if he's not voting for Trump, he's voting for the Ryan budget. The Ryan budget cuts Pell Grants, gives tax breaks to the wealthy, and makes Medicare no longer a guarantee but instead give seniors a voucher to buy insurance."
Paulsen's campaign called on Pelosi to put an end to the ads comparing Paulsen to Trump. Pelosi's staff said she has no control over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has been running the ads in the Minneapolis - St Paul market.
Keith Downey, the Minnesota Republican Party Chair, reacted to Pelosi's visit by saying "it will backfire on Terri Bonoff and Angie Craig because they would be beholden to Nancy Pelosi's extremist agenda."
Pelosi's appearance, which had been in the planning stages for more than a year, just happened to take place a day after House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow Republican members he'll no longer defend Donald Trump or campaign with the GOP presidential nominee.
"Nancy Pelosi’s trying to take advantage of that split," Professor Jacobs told reporters after the even. "But Speaker Ryan is up to the task, and I think the reason he’s breaking with Trump is to take on Nancy Pelosi and hold the majority."
During her three decades representing Congress, Pelosi has become a lightning rod for conservatives and assailed for trying to imprint her "San Francisco values" on the rest of the country.
Pelosi and her husband of 53 years, Paul Pelosi, have five children and nine grandchildren. They're devout Catholics, but Pelosi's pro-choice stance on abortion has put her at odds with most Republicans.
She said many of the most intractable legislative stalemates on Capitol Hill are about "poison pills" -- policy provisions relating to abortion and contraception inserted into budget bills.