Steering Impeachment With an Iron Grip, Pelosi Forges a Legacy She Never Sought

Nor is she concerned about polls showing public support for impeachment and her own approval ratings dropping.

“My numbers are better than Trump’s,” she shot back. “So if I’m not doing well, he’s doing worse.” (In a poll published Tuesday, CNN found that Mr. Trump’s job approval rating was 43 percent, while Ms. Pelosi’s was 39 percent, though the margin of error was four percent, which means they are essentially tied. )

It is not Ms. Pelosi’s style to twist arms to keep her Democratic members in line, but her subtle tactics should not be mistaken for a laissez-faire attitude. She is exacting in her expectations, insists on and richly rewards loyalty, and is known to hold grudges against those who cross her.

She is not “whipping” the impeachment vote — congressional jargon for leaning on members to vote a certain way. But she didn’t have to. Ms. Pelosi knew she had the votes when she announced the inquiry; she would not have moved forward otherwise.

“She will keep the caucus together, not by twisting arms but by the example that she has set, or words that she has delivered,” Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas, said in an interview last week. “She’s leaving every decision to each of these individuals as she’s making the case in a restrained way that has appealed to some of the members who have very difficult districts.”

In many respects, Ms. Pelosi’s management of the impeachment process recalls the tactics and style she used to push through the Affordable Care Act, and to work her way into the speaker’s office for a second time. Her grasp on the speakership seemed tenuous after the 2018 midterm elections. A number of incoming freshmen Democrats, including many moderates, said they would not vote for her.

“I was one of them; I thought it was time for new leadership,” said one of those freshmen, Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota. “And I’ve got to tell you, thank goodness. Thank goodness that we have Nancy Pelosi speaking for the House of Representatives, because I do not think there is a better, more qualified, more principled person for these circumstances.”