Will Nancy Pelosi retire?

If Republicans take control of the House of Representatives tomorrow night, Nancy Pelosi, who will be relieved of her post as Speaker in the new Congress, may decide to retire rather than be Minority Leader or a backbencher:

Democrats on Capitol Hill and K Street are increasingly convinced that Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have little interest in being Minority Leader — and may start preparing to leave Congress altogether — if Republicans win the House next week.

Pelosi and her allies adamantly refuse to entertain questions about a possible Democratic minority. But Democratic sources say they have a hard time imagining the 70-year-old, independently wealthy California Democrat would want to return to the less-powerful post that she held for four years before becoming Speaker in 2007, particularly after having spent the past four years driving the Congressional agenda.
“It’s pretty clear that what she does is just leave,” said a former House leadership aide who now works downtown. The Democrat had no direct knowledge of Pelosi’s plans but predicted she would probably resign from Congress in fairly short order. “Once you’ve been Speaker of the House, why would she just want to be a Member of Congress?”

Pelosi’s predecessor, former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), opted not to run for Minority Leader when Republicans lost the House in 2006; he resigned from Congress slightly more than a year later, on Nov. 26, 2007, after fading into obscurity.

But Pelosi’s backers think that while Republicans could get by without Hastert at the helm, Democrats would have a harder time functioning without Pelosi: They point to her hands-on leadership style and her near-unmatched fundraising ability.

Still, one Democratic lobbyist with ties to members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition said: “If the losses are as big as projected, I just don’t see how she hangs on. … She’s been a very active, very powerful Speaker, and I just have a hard time seeing her going back to being a rank-and-file Member.”

And no one thinks Pelosi has designs on the Senate or White House, unlike former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), who kept his House seat for two years after having abandoned his leadership post, in large part because he was mounting a presidential bid.

Still, Erik Smith, a Democratic strategist and former top Gephardt aide, speculated that Pelosi still might do a short stint as a rank-and-file Member to figure out her next career move and line up a hometown successor.

My bet is that Pelosi sticks around for a few months into the next Congress so that the losses don’t come at once. Obviously, she’ll still preside over the coming lame-duck session. Since most of the losses are expected to be Blue Dogs, I don’t expect House Democrats, the make-up of which will shift decidedly to the left after the election, will run her off.

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