Pelosi, 70, won the distinction of being the highest woman ever elected to office in the United States. But while she earned the affection of Democrats for her strict and skilful running of the House of Representatives, she swiftly became the woman the Republicans most loved to hate.
Always impeccably turned out, the representative from California is an influential and powerful lawmaker and a charismatic speaker. President Barack Obama has credited her with helping to push through some of his key reforms.
Married to a millionaire and a mother of five children, Pelosi won admirers in party ranks for her fundraising abilities as well as her success in uniting Democrats against Republican legislation.
But some Republicans have spoofed her as Disney’s would-be Dalmatian skinner “Cruella de Vil,” and portrayed her as a “wicked witch” of high taxes in a television commercial that sees her challenger melt her down to nothing with a bucket of water.
Pelosi, whose office says she has raised $52.3 million this election cycle and held 212 political events in 24 US states plus Puerto Rico, shrugged off the attacks.
If “no one’s talking about you, you have to wonder what you were doing,” she said, calling the often personal criticism the “highest compliment” and stressing US politics requires “a suit of armour” and the ability “to take a punch”.
She certainly helped use her sway to push through key legislation. She powered an $800bn economic stimulus plan to passage in February 2009, drove legislation to fight climate change through in June 2009, and led a Wall Street overhaul bill over Republican objections in June 2010.
Pelosi, who as House speaker is technically second in line to the presidency, now looks set to be replaced by House Minority Leader John Boehner come January when the new House gathers for the first time.
Boehner has described himself as “hopping mad” over some of Pelosi’s hardball tactics — notably the 11th-hour unveiling of the text of the controversial climate bill.