In the weeks leading up to last night's election, Nancy Pelosi had refused to even discuss losing a Democratic majority in the House. But now that the GOP is primed to regain control after winning a stunning 65 seats, Pelosi will have to get used to being in the minority again. But does this sobering return to relative powerlessness mean she'll hang up her legislative spikes once and for all?
She'll probably retire: "Conventional wisdom is that Pelosi would step down as speaker and retire from Congress in the near future," says John Bresnahan at Politico. She tried to appear optimistic before the elections, but "behind the scenes," Pelosi was aware that "time was running out." Many colleagues "expect her to throw her support to [Steny] Hoyer, a one-time bitter rival, to become Democratic leader once she announces her decision to step aside."
"The rise and fall of Nancy Pelosi"
No, Pelosi is too tenacious to quit: Democratic House leaders have faced this situation before, says former Pelosi staffer Michael Yaki at The Huffington Post. Recall Sam Rayburn, who, after losing his majority twice (in the late-'40s and early-'50s) "worked to turn around a Democratic majority... and regain the Speakership." Pelosi "embodies Rayburn in her iron will, her boundless energy, and her unwavering commitment to her party and caucus, so "don't bet against her being Speaker again, sooner, rather than later."
"Nancy Pelosi: Down, definitely not out"
... but there's little reason to return: Leading up to yesterday's landslide, powerful Democrats were "increasingly convinced that... Pelosi would have little interest in being Minority Leader — and may start preparing to leave Congress altogether," says Kathleen Hunter at CQ Politics. Given her powerful position for the last four years, it seems unlikely that the "independently wealthy California Democrat would want to return to the less-powerful post that she held for four years before becoming Speaker in 2007."
"It's looking like Speaker or nothing for Nancy Pelosi"