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Speaker Nancy Pelosi to seek minority leader post

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Republican candidates are going after more than their opponents in campaign ads this year, they're also going after Nancy Pelosi.

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The president has not come forward to say whether he thinks Pelosi should stay on as Democratic leader.

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"The White House does not comment or get involved in leadership elections," White House spokesman Bill Burton said. "As the president has said before, he appreciates the work of the speaker and the entire House Democratic leadership team, who have been great partners in moving the country forward. He looks forward to working with them in the years to come."

After announcing her leadership run on Twitter, Pelosi sent a formal letter to her Democratic colleagues. "Our work is far from finished," she wrote. "As a result of Tuesday's election, the role of Democrats in the 112th Congress will change, but our commitment to serving the American people will not. We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back.. . . I have decided to run."

On Friday, Republicans appeared almost giddy at Pelosi's decision.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "Of course, if House Democrats are willing to sacrifice more of their members in 2012 for the glory of Nancy Pelosi, we are happy to oblige them."

On Friday, the "FIRE PELOSI" sign that hung outside Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington was changed to read, "HIRE PELOSI."

Pelosi supporters said the 2012 elections would be a referendum on the economy and not on the Democratic agenda or Pelosi's leadership style.

"The very fact that they have been attacking her so much is driving her in part not to slink away," said Rep. Jan D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.). "They want to say: 'See, we chased Nancy Pelosi away.' Well, Nancy Pelosi doesn't get chased away."

The liberal flank of the caucus questions whether anyone else could keep the troops in line as Republicans seek to dismantle such Democratic achievements as the health-care and Wall Street overhaul laws.

"I am confident that under her leadership we will never abandon our principles," said Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J.), one of the negotiators of the health-care bill.

But some other lawmakers fear just the opposite. If Pelosi stays on as leader, they contend, a small group of moderate Democrats from swing districts may choose to vote with Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumptive incoming speaker, on contentious issues.

Pelosi's wish to remain in power has thrust the party's No. 2 and 3 leaders, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the majority leader, and Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the majority whip, into a potential battle over the job of minority whip. Hoyer draws much of his support from the party's diminished ranks of centrists and conservatives; Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in congressional history, has a strong following among liberal Democrats. Many insiders are distraught over the possibility of a bruising ideological fight and fear what such a race would do to party unity in the weeks and months ahead.

If Hoyer does not win the whip's race, or backs away out of deference, the few remaining moderate Democrats will see a leadership table that is completely dominated by liberals. If Hoyer topples Clyburn, the Congressional Black Caucus may find that its most senior voice is thrust out of the leadership.

"Most of you know my record, and all of you have my promise that I will listen to each and every member and work harder than anyone to achieve our goals," Clyburn wrote in a letter to colleagues seeking their support. "By working together, respecting each other, and celebrating our diversity, we will come back a stronger and more resilient majority."

kanep@washpost.com baconp@washpost.com

Staff writers Anne E. Kornblut, Shailagh Murray and Ben Pershing contributed to this report.


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