Pelosi Brushes Aside Democrat Calls To Step Down

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Friday (via Twitter) that she will run for minority leader of the Democrats in the next Congress. NPR's Andrea Seabrook talks to Michele Norris.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Now that Republicans have seized control of the House of Representatives - one big question - what happens now to current Speaker Nancy Pelosi? Well, today, she announced that she wants to continue to lead the Democrats in the next Congress. Some Democrats have been calling for her to step down.

NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook has been following the story, and she joins us now.

Andrea, what exactly did Nancy Pelosi say, and I understand that she said it on Twitter, of all things?

ANDREA SEABROOK: She did. She announced today that she is going to make a run for the minority leader. Remember, when a party goes from the majority, as the Democrats are, to the minority, they lose a leadership position. So they just have three top people in the leadership - the minority leader, the minority whip and the head of the caucus.

So, she announced that she wanted to be the minority leader, and a lot of people were very surprised. And I'll tell you, not just Americans out there in the world. People inside the Capitol were very, very surprised to see her make a run for it.

NORRIS: There have been reports that there is a lot of activity in that sort of campus of offices that she has on the Hill. Do we know something about how she came to this decision? Was there a lot of deliberation?

SEABROOK: What I'm told by people inside her main camp is that she went straight to the members. She asked a lot of people what they thought of her work over the last two years, and she heard over and over again that people were happy with her, that they love her. They think she's been incredibly effective, and that she is the kind of person who can hold the Democrats together.

We have to remember, she's not asking America here. She's asking the Democrats that are left in the House of Representatives, and this is a much more liberal group of Democrats than there are currently serving in the House. A lot of those moderates have lost their elections and are going into Republican hands, the seats. So she - these are her people that she's asking here.

NORRIS: As we said, there were some Democrats who would prefer that she would step away from the leadership. Will she face some opposition?

SEABROOK: Well, Heath Shuler has announced that he will, in fact, run against her if no one else does, and he's one of those conservative Democrat blue dogs. But remember, their numbers have been decimated, and the numbers just don't add up to someone like Heath Shuler winning over Nancy Pelosi. It's more or less a protest run.

And, you know, I mean, there are a lot of people in that vein who think, well, if she just lost, if we just lost our majority under her leadership, why should she still be the leader? And, again, she has been vilified by moderates. She has been run against in a lot of districts across the country, but not the places where there's still Democrats in the seats.

NORRIS: So what happens to the other members of the House Democratic leadership - Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Jim Clyburn from South Carolina?

SEABROOK: The Democrats have lost a seat in their leadership here, and so there are four leaders for three spaces. So you have Nancy Pelosi running for the minority leader. The minority whip is where we might actually see a contest between Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn. This is a Southern longtime staunch Democrat who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and may, in fact, be the kind of face Democrats want to put forward going into 2012.

Two, it looks as if maybe the big contest will be Hoyer versus Clyburn. And Hoyer, remember, his base of support among conservatives has just been decimated. And so, the numbers may not add up for him. This will be the race to watch.

NORRIS: Any idea what the White House thinks about this?

SEABROOK: Boy, you know, it's interesting. Under the Bush administration, the Republicans were much more connected to the Bush White House. And in a sense, the Republican Party is much more of a top-down party than Democrats are. That is why, for example, when they win the majority, they already have their leadership lined up. We know exactly what's going to happen. They're on message all the time.

The Democrats are always less organized, but always sort of more bottom-up in their approach to leadership. And President Obama has been the same way, and he's sort of let the congressional Democrats work themselves out.

NORRIS: Andrea, thanks so much.

SEABROOK: Thank you.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Andrea Seabrook.

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