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Democrat Pelosi focused on U.S. election, mum on her future

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 5, 2012.
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 5, 2012.

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Normally outspoken Nancy Pelosi is mum about her future.

She won't say if she will step aside as Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives if her party fails, as expected, to win back the chamber from Republicans in Tuesday's elections.

Pelosi recently fanned speculation about her future by scheduling House Democratic leadership elections later than many anticipated, after the November 22 Thanksgiving Day holiday, rather than at the outset of the lame-duck session of the House that begins a week after the November 6 election.

Several of her colleagues say Pelosi would retain her leadership job if she does choose to run.

Pelosi said in an interview with Reuters that she decided to have leadership elections later to give newly elected members more time to get acquainted before deciding on leaders and to let members focus on the election without distraction.

"There's feeling she wants to give herself more time to think about what she will do," one party aide said.

Pelosi said she is too busy to "waste a moment or an ounce of energy" on the hypothetical question.

"Right now, our focus is on one thing - winning," Pelosi said in a telephone interview between campaign events.

Besides she said, "Do you ask (Republican presidential nominee) Mitt Romney what he will do if he loses? ... There is no way on Earth that he's going to win."

Pelosi was speaker of the House - the first and only woman to hold the post - from 2007 until January 2011, when Republican John A. Boehner took over after a Republican sweep in the 2010 congressional elections.

"Organize, don't agonize. That's my motto," said Pelosi, 72, who was first elected to Congress from San Francisco 25 years ago.

In October, Pelosi had 65 fundraising and campaign events in eight states and the District of Columbia, her office said.

Pelosi dismisses predictions by most analysts that Democrats will fall far short of picking up the needed 25 seats to take the 435-member House.

"I've never been to one to go along with the experts," she said. "There are a lot of close races that can go either way."

Interviews with a dozen House Democrats found all saying it's unclear what Pelosi will do about the leadership job.

"I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't know. I doubt she's given it much thought," said Democratic Representative Gerald Connolly. "She's thinking about the here and now."

But all agreed that if Pelosi decides to run again for House Democratic leader, she would get the job.

"We get our inspiration from her aspiration to accomplish great things," said Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings.

Democratic Representative George Miller said: "I don't know what she'll do. It's her decision. But I think it's unlikely she leaves. She is a warhorse."

"She gives all the signs that she intends to run again for leader," said one Democratic aide who asked not to be named. "She's working hard for members. She's out there raising money. She's totally engaged."

Critics say Pelosi should have followed the example of former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, who left leadership after his party lost the chamber in 2006.

A number of moderate Democrats had hoped Pelosi, a leading liberal, would do that after the 2010 election. But after days of private talks, she announced she would run and won easily.

Pelosi said her primary motivation - as it was when she first ran for Congress in 1987 - is to help children living in poverty, now one in five.

In 2010, Republicans made Pelosi the face of an unpopular Congress with more than $65 million in attack ads. In picking up 63 House seats to take the House, they blamed her for Obama's controversial U.S. healthcare overhaul.

Regardless how Tuesday's election turns out, Pelosi seems certain to remain in Congress for at least two more years. Having won a 13th term in 2010 with 80 percent of the vote, she's favored to easily capture a 14th on Tuesday.

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Fred Barbash and Bill Trott)

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