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Originally published Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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David Postman

House speaker sees bright future for Democrats

Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to lead the U.S. House for years to come, predicting "enormous gains" in the number of Democrats in Congress...

Seattle Times chief political reporter

Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to lead the U.S. House for years to come, predicting "enormous gains" in the number of Democrats in Congress at the turn of the decade.

At that point, Pelosi said in an interview Friday, even the loyal opposition will fall into line.

"We will get Republican cooperation ... once they get used to the idea that we are here to stay," she said.

Pelosi was in Seattle to boost the campaign of Darcy Burner, making her second run against Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. Pelosi said Burner is the type of candidate who will help her accomplish her goals.

"It is about fresh, entrepreneurial thinking and about being a voice for her generation and her situation: a young, working mom, an accomplished businesswoman," Pelosi said.

The House speaker said her plan calls for Democrats to strengthen and build their majority in Congress this year, hold those seats in the 2010 midterm elections and then post huge gains in 2012.

"We have big plans where we want to take this country."

But Pelosi's vision also requires a Democratic president, more Democrats in the Senate and more luck in rising above the incrementalism that has marked much of her tenure.

Last year, when Pelosi became the first female speaker in the nation's history, she warned of the "dangerous narcotic of incrementalism." She boasted that Democrats would try for civility, but where that wasn't possible, they were ready to stand their ground.

But paired with a Senate just barely in control of Democrats, Pelosi's House was often more practical than bold.

"Frequently we have said, let's pass what we think they can pass in the Senate, which really hasn't worked because they can't pass very much in the Senate," Pelosi said.

Democratic leadership recently has worked harder to stick to its own agenda. That was particularly true, she said, with recent votes on Iraq.

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"This time we just said, 'What do we want in this bill? What is the statement that needs to be made?' "

Part of that statement has been to reflect what is in a document called the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. Created by Burner and a team of experts, the plan calls for a rapid troop withdrawal and an increased diplomatic and humanitarian effort in Iraq.

The plan has been endorsed by other Democratic congressional challengers, as well as some retired military officers.

Big threads of the plan include legislation that already existed in Congress but failed to pass under two years of Democratic control.

"You could think of a million things you could do better in terms of Iraq, probably at least a million," Pelosi said. "But it's a question of where you put the focus. And yes, indeed, what she has done helped focus that."

And Burner got other candidates to sign on. "That drumbeat isn't lost on Congress."

Pelosi took an early interest in Burner's campaign in 2006. She raised money for her here and from around the country.

She was in Seattle on Friday for an official visit to the veterans hospital. But she was also scheduled to attend a fundraiser and make a video for the Burner campaign.

David Postman is The Seattle Times' chief political reporter. Reach him at 360-236-8267 or at dpostman@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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