Former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D., Ariz.) received thousands of dollars from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and then traveled to Congress to meet with her a week later, opening herself up to attacks that she is too closely tied to the unpopular minority leader.
Kirkpatrick, who lost a 2016 bid for U.S. Senate by 13 points and has now moved to a district targeted by Democrats to run for a House seat, has emerged as the Democratic establishment's preferred candidate to take on Rep. Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), a two-term incumbent.
On the final day of Kirkpatrick's last fundraising quarter she brought in $10,000 from Pelosi's PAC and an additional $4,000 directly from Pelosi's campaign, according to just filed campaign finance reports.
Soon after the donations, Kirkpatrick was spotted on the House floor on her way to a meeting with Pelosi.
— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) October 12, 2017
Neither Pelosi nor Kirkpatrick responded to inquiries into what was discussed during the meeting.
The donations and meeting open the door for Republicans to return to the playbook of attacking Pelosi that was used to obtain their majority and defeat candidates such as Jon Ossoff, who was pestered with questions about whether he would support Pelosi through Election Day.
The National Republican Congressional Committee immediately pointed out Kirkpatrick's meeting with Pelosi, asking whether she pledged to be loyal to Pelosi if elected.
Asked why, NRCC spokesman Jack Pandol said the meeting was proof that Kirkpatrick was "desperate to return to work for her old boss."
"Ann Kirkpatrick is desperate to return to work for her old boss, Nancy Pelosi, in Washington—chasing her all the way to the floor of the House of Representatives," Pandol said in an email. "While Ann was on her wild goose chase to get back in Nancy's good graces, Martha McSally has been working hard for Arizona and getting things done."
The strategy by Republicans is backed up by analytics showing that Pelosi is "toxic" to voters in crucial districts, including McSally's.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican Super PAC, told the Washington Free Beacon that its polling in Arizona's second district found that Pelosi remains a wildly unpopular figure. A poll conducted by the group over the summer found Pelosi was viewed unfavorably by 52 percent and favorably by just 36 percent.
Republicans use of Pelosi to win elections by painting candidates such as Ossoff as "Nancy's hand-picked candidate" has caused many in the party to question whether she should continue to hold the leadership position she has had since 2002.
"The Republican playbook for the past four election cycles has been very focused, very clear: It's been an attack on our leader," said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D., N.Y.) after Ossoff's loss. "Is it fair? No. Are the attacks accurate? No. But guess what? They work. They're winning, and we're losing."
Pelosi has defended herself by indicating that her fundraising prowess is a utility the party couldn't find in a replacement, telling critics she is "worth the trouble."
Rep. Filemon Vela (D., Tex.) has said Pelosi's money is not worth it.
"There's no question she is a prolific fundraiser," Vela said in June. "She raised millions and millions of dollars, but what has that money gotten us in the last four election cycles?"
Recent polling by Democrat-aligned group Patriot Majority USA found Kirkpatrick and McSally in a dead heat, each at 44 percent.