Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to secure the top Democratic leadership spot for next year, as the only lawmaker expected to mount a challenge acknowledged Sunday that he will not have the support to topple her.
"You know, I can add and subtract pretty well. I don't have the numbers to be able to win," Representative Heath Shuler said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."
Even if she succeeds in Wednesday's leadership election, Pelosi, the first woman to hold the job of House Speaker, will get a demotion.
That's because voters in the Nov. 2 elections gave the House majority to Republicans after a four-year hiatus. Republican leader John Boehner is expected to replace Pelosi as Speaker for the new Congress that convenes in January.
In the U.S. Senate, where Democrats also lost seats but maintained their majority, Senator Harry Reid is expected to continue as leader with Senator Richard Durbin staying on as the number-two Democrat.
House Democrats, who suffered deep losses in the midterm elections, have pinned their defeat on what they saw as a too-liberal agenda by Pelosi and President Barack Obama.
Shuler, a leader of the conservative-leaning Blue Dog Democrats who won a third term, has been calling on Pelosi to abandon her drive to become minority leader next year, saying Democrats needed to move "forward in a moderate direction."
Shuler, a former professional football player, said that if Pelosi does not step aside, "Then I will challenge her."
Shuler's drive to become minority leader, a long-shot in any circumstance, would be all the more difficult now that so many of his fellow Blue Dog Democrats lost their seats, leaving a more liberal bent among House Democrats that favors Pelosi.
Over the weekend, Pelosi and her current leadership team moved to avoid a potentially divisive fight over other top Democratic Party slots for the new Congress.
Pelosi informed her fellow Democrats Saturday that a new leadership position was being created and that she wanted Representative Jim Clyburn to win that post.
Currently, Clyburn is the House Democratic "whip," a job that Representative Steny Hoyer is seeking for next year. In this Congress, Hoyer holds the Democratic leader job that Pelosi is expected to take over.
Asked on CNN whether House Democrats might be poorly served by maintaining the same leadership team after a November election that Obama called "a shellacking," Clyburn harkened back to Democrats' big 2006 and 2008 election victories.
"This is the team that brought us out of the wilderness ... into the land of milk and honey." (Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Anthony Boadle)
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