In her first interview after a historic drubbing on Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi told ABC News’s Diane Sawyer on the topic of whether she would try to remain the leader of the Democratic Party in the House or step down, “I’ll have a conversation with my caucus, I’ll have a conversation with my family, and pray over it, and decide how to go forward.” While that’s about as vague is it comes, Pelosi was pretty widely expected to step aside from the leadership post, and possibly even retire altogether. After all, the Democrats had lost at least 60 seats.
But Pelosi seems to have other plans. ABC News is reporting that “Pelosi is seriously considering staying in Congress and running for the position of minority leader,” and that she’s been “methodically calling every Democratic House member who won on Tuesday” and gauging their support. Similarly, Politico claims that Pelosi and surrogates are “working her way through most, if not all, the Democratic Caucus,” seeking feedback.
Democratic congressmen who aren’t enamored with the idea already have an alternative: North Carolina Blue Dog Heath Shuler, who had previously promised during the campaign to run against Pelosi for Speaker of the House, has now expressed interest in running for minority leader “if there’s not a viable alternative” to Pelosi.
While Shuler can certainly make a strong case for some new blood in the party leadership — again, they lost 60 seats — Pelosi’s allies have an argument of their own.
Some Pelosi stalwarts believe she shouldn’t be punished for electoral losses after faithfully executing the party’s agenda in such an effective manner that her name is now mentioned among those of the most powerful speakers in history.
When it comes down to it, Pelosi probably has the numbers on her side. The Blue Dogs that would have been Shuler’s base of support were decimated on Tuesday, and now number only 28 members. Overall, most of the Democrats picked off in the Republican tide — 48 out of 60, by one party strategist’s count — were moderates representing swing districts, resulting in a Democratic caucus that is now more liberal than it was before. That’s a blessing in disguise for the personal ambitions of Pelosi.