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'It's About the Character of America': Pelosi Keeps Leadership Post with Two-Thirds Support

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arrives to speak to media following House Democratic Caucus elections on Capitol Hill on Nov. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held onto her leadership role today, winning votes from 68 percent of the Dem caucus in the face of a challenge from an Ohio Democrat who charged that the party wasn’t doing enough to reach out to Middle America.

In the closed-door leadership elections that were delayed so members could converse about how to respond to the party’s Election Day losses, Pelosi got 134 votes to 63 for Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio).

Pelosi went into the vote with a pretty accurate whip count, declaring that she maintained the support of two-thirds of the caucus.

She told reporters that she was “exhilarated” by her support.

“We’re at a time that is well beyond politics. It’s about the character of America. And how we go forward in our caucus to put forth our values which are what unite us as a caucus to differentiate between us and the administration that will come into Washington in January, to take that message clearly to the public is something that is of historic challenge,” Pelosi said. “…So I have a special spring in my step today because this opportunity is a special one to lead the House Democrats, bring everyone together as we go forward.”

“My heart is broken that we did not win the White House this time. That is — it’s a pain and not for me personally, but for what it means to the American people,” she added. “So I would trade anything not to have this opportunity of opposing an administration. Where we can engage, we will. Where we can — we need to oppose, we will. But nonetheless, this does afford an opportunity so that the congressional Democrats can go forward and remove all doubt that never again will we have an election where there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind where the Democrats are when it comes to America’s working families.”

She congratulated Ryan on “a good race.”

On Tuesday, though, Pelosi said Ryan’s charge that she wanted to “further consolidate her power over the caucus” was “almost pathetic.”

Ryan told reporters that for “a couple of weeks to put this together… I think did a pretty good job.”

“We got the message out that we wanted to get out, and that’s that as Democrats, we need to talk about economics. It’s the issue that unites us. Many of you have heard me say this a million times in the last two weeks, and I believe it in my heart that if we’re going to win as Democrats, we need to have an economic message that resonates in every corner of this country,” he said.

“We’ve come out of this leadership election united as Democrats, to take on the challenges that we need moving forward. So, you know, I’m disappointed because I like to win, and — but I think it was a great discussion for us. And I think, honestly, I think the party is better off.”

Asked if he knew why people voted against him, the congressman replied, “I didn’t ask anybody. I didn’t want to have my feelings hurt any more than they already were.”

“And let me just say, Leader Pelosi has been here a long time. She has a lot of friends. This is her caucus, clearly. But we had an opinion and we wanted to make sure people heard it,” he added.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a supporter of Ryan’s bid for minority leader, said “we may not have won the position, but we won a caucus.”

“We have now a leadership that listens to what we are saying. We have now a leadership that wants to be more inclusive and include more people from this caucus. We have now a leadership that wants to hear what we have to say, what we think went wrong, how we fix it,” Fudge said.

“He didn’t lose today. Today, we made a caucus more responsible to its members. And so for that, I congratulate him. One-third of the members of this caucus had the courage to come out and say we needed a change. And I congratulate all of them. And for those who voted for our leader, I think that’s great. I think she’s a wonderful leader,” she added.

“But what I do know is when I go home, people are going to ask me what did you do to make this better. Doing nothing doesn’t make it better, but today, we won because they hear us.”

Ryan said the Democrats can still win back the majority with Pelosi as leader “because we’re going to work our butts off to make that happen.”

“A lot of young members stepped up, went public which is unheard of in a political caucus like this for young people to stand up,” he added. “So we’ve got a lot of people that are ready to participate.”