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November 13, 2012

Pelosi to Speak to House Democrats Amid Rumors That She Will Step Down From Leadership

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Former House Speakers don’t typically spend a lot of time in Congress after their ouster. Nancy Pelosi felt she had a chance, aided by the coattails of the President, to win back the House in 2012. It turns out that the Democrats picked up, if all the current too-close-to-call races hold, eight seats. Key states were gerrymandered so badly, so this was a much better feat than commonly realized (if you believe that redistricting added 11 seats naturally into the Republican column, then on an apples-to-apples comparison Democrats picked up 19 seats, roughly equivalent to their gains in the wave year of 2008).

Still and all, Democrats came up 17 seats short, and they face the prospect of an unfavorable map bedeviling them from returning to the majority, potentially for the next four cycles. So it’s only natural that Pelosi, who after all is 72, would consider stepping down.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will meet with top Democrats on Tuesday night — followed by another leadership-only session early Wednesday as she prepares for a meeting with all House Democrats — but it is still unclear whether she will stay or go after nearly a decade in power [...]

“When I see my caucus, I will discuss it with them in the beginning of this week rather than discuss it with rumor in Washington,” Pelosi told the reporters. “I will make that announcement to my caucus. I know that we’re best friends and all, but I think that I will share that with them first.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who wants to be a future Speaker in her own right, said she would be shocked if Pelosi stepped down, but I suspect she doesn’t mean that. As I said, former Speakers don’t really have fun hanging out in the minority waiting for a return to power. Maybe Pelosi’s different, and her fundraising prowess certainly makes her an asset. But I wouldn’t blame her for wanting to leave.

Talk of succession is premature, but Steny Hoyer has been planted in line for quite a while now. The ideological makeup of the caucus has shifted away from Hoyer – there are now only 14 Blue Dogs left, believe it or not – but Hoyer rose to the top of the caucus leadership on relationships rather than ideology. Chris Van Hollen or Wasserman Schultz could challenge Hoyer, but they’ll more likely bide their time.

A House Democratic caucus with Hoyer in charge rather than Pelosi just necessarily focuses on different things. And while this matters less in the minority, it would definitely represent an ideological move to the center, despite an election that moved the caucus to the left.

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