Two term Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), as anything other than a protest candidate against Nancy Pelosi, was a preposterous candidate to lead the smaller, more liberal House Democratic caucus. And it's not my understanding that he did anything to canvass for votes. So it's a bad sign for Nancy Pelosi that 43 members of the caucus voted for the guy. That's almost a quarter of the caucus. If a serious challenger had opposed her, it would have been a tough race.I see two basic possibilities. The first is that Pelosi has just had her Anthony Meyer moment, and her leadership is nearing its end (Meyer gained notoriety by presenting a failed Tory leadership challenge to Margaret Thatcher, one that showed her political weakness and led to Thatcher being ousted a year later). The other basic possibility is that Democrats are pissed that the party lost a bunch of seats and are taking it out on Pelosi, and if the Dems do well in 2012 all will be forgiven.
The Pelosi puzzle is a complicated one. She's a talented legislative leader but a polarizing figure (intentionally so). My instinct is that loathing toward her is wide but not deep, that voters have a vague dislike of Pelosi due to what they know of her profile but that only hard-core partisans on both sides have deeply-held opinions on her. But I'm willing to listen to the argument that what might generally be a nominal effect might be quite a bit less nominal in places like Mississippi, where it could well have taken just enough votes away from, say, Gene Taylor. I wonder if running for minority leader was the smartest move at this point--maybe letting Hoyer (or better yet someone new) take the hits at the top for a few years in exchange for Nancy getting to be speaker when the Dems get the House back. But the Democrats' problems this cycle were at least 98% not Nancy's fault, and I'm personally happy she's sticking around.