According to sources, Nancy Pelosi, the recently defeated Democratic Speaker, may be planning to stay on as House Minority leader, a position she held before 2006.
There's not many out there that I think see this as a "good idea." Certainly, Pelosi has a list of accomplishments, and she has already won a couple times, she may very well be able to win again in 2, 4, or 6 years time. Nothing should really be off the table, given the somewhat unpredictable cycles we could see ahead of us. She also has the connections and the contacts to get support, and keep it. She's far from a spent force, and neither is the Democratic Party.
But, the Democrats have faced one of their heaviest losses in decades. The fact that they kept the Senate is good, and a strong Opposition plus Senate control will ensue the Democrats don't go silently. Yet, there's a certain fact out there that clouds any Pelosi return: she's Pelosi.
Whether you think the Democrats lost because of the economy, because of the deficit, or because they're evil proto-communists that want to suck your blood, or something, there's a unifying idea out there as to why the Democrats lost at least part of their shine: Pelosi. While Obama didn't necessarily help, Pelosi was the next big target and, arguably, the one that got quite a bit of the ball rolling on this whole goddamn-the-Congress feeling. Obama is not in a good position, but he's more popular among Americans than Pelosi, even among their own party members. That's not an endorsement, to be sure.
Another point that I, as a fairly progressive liberal, should bring up is the entire ideology surrounding Pelosi. She's from the left-wing of the party. Indeed, she was apart of the left-wing caucus within the Democratic Conference, the thing called the "Progressive Caucus." The Progressives were, frankly, what we could consider the New Democrats up here.
Ironically, the moderate, ideologically "liberal" portion of the Democrats have a caucus called the "New Democrats." This is the same group that Bill Clinton came out of, and includes some others you may have heard of, including Senator John Kerry, (now former) Senator Blanche Lincoln, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Rep. Russ Carnahan, and etc.
The "conservative" Democrats coalesced around what's called the "Blue Dog Coalition," which I'm sure any US politico watchers have heard of. They're the ones Obama had a hard time trying to convince about the financial merits of the healthcare laws. They share quite a few members with the New Democrats, and in general aren't too "conservative" by American standards - only Democratic ones.
The reason I'm explaining these different factions is because for a good while now, the Progressive Caucus has been in charge, with Pelosi their biggest standard-bearer. Indeed, if you subscribe to the idea that the Democrats lost because they went too far to the left, look no further for who set that direction. If Americans are truly upset with the pace of change and direction that the Democrats went in, it stands to reason that another Progressive caucus member, or Pelosi herself, may not be the best face for the party going forward, unless you believe shifting even farther to the left is the salve that will heal the wounds. And yes, there exists folks like that out there.
Slight problem, however: Progressives mostly kept their seats, while New Dems and Blue Dogs suffered most of the losses. This is kind of easy to explain: most Progressives came from inner-city, safe Democratic seats where they're not likely to lose unless they're actually Republican. New Democrats and Blue Dogs came from seats out in the suburbs and middle America, including districts where McCain won in 2008 and were already Republican-leaning, and with a good enough swing, could pick up their seats. And, well, guess what happened.
If there's no strong centre candidates for the Minority Leader's position, it shan't be too hard for Pelosi, or another left-wing candidate, to claim the prize. That could be an issue. It's also highly probable that any sort of centre candidate may not get enough support among the Democratic caucus, simply because the centre-to-centre-right base has been diminished so much. This leaves Pelosi in a very good situation.
What happens if Pelosi is re-elected? It'll be clear to Americans that the Democrats just don't get it. Putting the former Speaker back in the position of wanting to be Speaker again is, frankly, dumb. I'd worry for the future of the Dems if they decide to do this. She's no Sam Rayburn, and frankly, there's a reason she's no longer Speaker. Will the Caucus listen, though? We'll have to wait and see.