WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats re-elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi to another two-year term as House minority leader on Tuesday, two weeks after elections in which the party lost at least a dozen seats in the chamber.
In a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, Pelosi was re-elected by voice vote in a race in which she faced no challenger. The California Democrat has been party leader in the chamber since 2003, including four years in which she was the first female House speaker.
No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland and the party's other top leaders also were re-elected without a challenge.
"What we want are initiatives that help the American people, that reduce the anxiety because it reduces the income disparity," Pelosi told reporters after her election.
But touching on the need that Democrats see to improve their message to voters, 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, 74, was victorious despite some grumbling that the leadership needs fresh blood and that the party did an inadequate job of selling its policies to voters. Pelosi told her colleagues that Democrats need to do a better job of focusing on helping the middle-class, Democrats said.
"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."
Many Democrats also blamed their recent losses on an unfriendly political climate beyond their control, including President Barack Obama's unpopularity.
"Nancy did as good a job as she could do in this situation. It's very hard in an off-year, when people don't come out to vote," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who also cited big campaign spending by Republican allies.
Pelosi is deeply popular with liberals. Countless Republican campaign ads have sought to make her their symbol of a profligate government that doesn't know how to say no to spending proposals or interest groups.
Pelosi and Hoyer, 75, have led House Democrats for the past dozen years, eight of them in the minority. Democrats controlled the chamber from 2007 through 2010 but lost a disastrous 63 seats in that year's elections and have been in the minority ever since.
In this month's elections, Democrats lost at least a dozen House seats, with three races undecided. Republicans will hold at least 246 House seats, the most since the 1940s.
Democrats consider Pelosi a tough leader and tremendous financial asset.
Her aides say she's raised over $101 million over the past two years for House Democrats, appearing at 750 campaign events in 115 cities. That's about the same amount raised by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, making Pelosi's total impressive because she was collecting cash for a party that no one expected to capture a House majority.
Some Democratic senators expressed displeasure with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., after they lost at least eight Senate seats, costing them control of that chamber next year. Reid was nonetheless re-elected.