Blue Dogs say Pelosi could be a 2012 liability

Blue Dog Democrats are worried Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) could hinder the party’s chances in the South if she’s elected as the party’s minority leader. 

"I don't know how you recruit for some of these seats," said Florida Rep. Allen Boyd (D), who lost his reelection bid on Nov. 2. "How are you going to recruit somebody to run -- a moderate, Blue Dog Democrat -- to run down there. Can't do it."

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Democrats lost at least 60 seats on Election Day, including some of their long-serving members from the South. In addition to the seven-term Boyd, Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Chet Edwards (D-Texas) and John Spratt (D-S.C.) all lost their reelection races. 

Boyd, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, spoke out against Pelosi’s continued leadership during a midday caucus meeting at the Capitol. 

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), who's challenging Pelosi for minority leader, agreed with Boyd. He predicted it would be "very, very difficult" to recruit House candidates to run in 2012 with Pelosi in the House leadership. 

Shuler said he heard from "most all" the Blue Dog Democrats after Election Day. Many of them were disappointed with the party’s fortunes and encouraged him to fight for a leadership spot, he said. 

"I played in the NFL, and [when] you lost significantly, you were replaced," Shuler said after exiting the meeting. "And I had that conversation directly with [Pelosi]. I told her that."

Shuler said he doesn’t have the votes to win and insisted he had no hard feelings toward the speaker. 

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who lost his reelection bid, said he doesn't believe Pelosi’s leadership role poses a problem for Democrats in the South.

"She's the best person for the job, it's that simple," he said. "She's an exquisitely talented person."

Pelosi has helped her party maneuver significant legislation through the House, but she was a liability for many Democrats this cycle. Republicans used voting for her as speaker as a political cudgel against Democrats in conservative districts.  

Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly (D), who narrowly won a second term, said it's hard to predict what Pelosi's popularity will be by the time of the next election. "Two years is an eternity," he said. 

Meanwhile, Democrats' recruiting in the South may be helped by former members running for their old seats.

Boyd wouldn’t rule out another run. "I haven't really given that any thought," he said.  

Grayson said it was "too early to say" whether he would run again.

Mississippi Rep. Travis Childers (D) attributed his loss to holding a "pretty conservative district" in a "tough year for Democrats." He also wouldn't rule out another run. "I'm going to leave those options open," he said. Asked about Pelosi's leadership, Childers said: "They tagged a lot of us with that." But he declined to say whether she could hurt his chances if he ran again.

Virginia Rep. Glenn Nye (D) also refused to say he would leave politics after his reelection defeat. "We're keeping everything on the table," he said. "Haven't made any decisions yet."