WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi overcame gripes about Democrats' losing campaign messages and breezed to reelection Tuesday as House minority leader.
Meeting behind closed doors, Democrats used a voice vote to give Pelosi (D., Calif.) her seventh two-year term as their House leader. The rest of the party's top leadership in the chamber, including No. 2 leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), was also reelected.
Pelosi and her lieutenants faced no challengers. But just two weeks after an Election Day that deepened their minority status - they lost at least a dozen House seats - some said their party had done a poor job of persuading middle-class voters that Democrats were on their side.
"We need a full-blown discussion of who we are, where we're going, what are our priorities. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority," said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.). "It's all of our faults, not just the leadership."
"We should have stayed on message and not walked away from the successes of this president," said Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D., N.J.). Many Democratic candidates distanced themselves from President Obama, who is deeply unpopular in some regions.
Pelosi has been House Democratic leader since 2003, including a four-year stint as the first female House speaker. The Democrats have not been in the majority since 2010, and Pelosi said it was time for them to focus more sharply on middle-class needs.
"What we want are initiatives that help the American people, that reduce the anxiety because it reduces the income disparity" between lower earners and the wealthy, Pelosi told reporters.
Touching on the need that Democrats see to improve their message, she said that while it's important to address people's needs, "it's another thing, also, to make sure the public understands what is going on."
Pelosi is widely popular with liberals and is a tireless fund-raiser - a big asset for a party leader.
But with Pelosi 74 and Hoyer 75, there's been increased grumbling that the leadership needs fresh faces.
Asked if younger Democrats should take the helm, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) said: "Clearly there's a bunch in waiting, and at some point that will occur. But I see no evidence that anyone is pushing that. The caucus has very high regard for Nancy and Steny, and that wouldn't get anywhere."