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Pelosi defends election results: 'It was a great victory'

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSpending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.) on Friday defended the Democrats' underperformance at the polls this year, arguing that voter turnout for House Democrats — because it surpassed that for President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE — marked "a great victory" for the party despite the loss of seats in the lower chamber.

"Did you know that House Democrats got nearly 2 million more votes than Donald Trump?" she asked reporters in the Capitol. "Everybody turned out and it was a great victory — a mandate."

Technically, Pelosi's assessment is correct. As of Friday afternoon, House Democratic candidates had, collectively, received 75.5 million votes across the country, versus 73.7 million votes for Trump and 72.1 million for House Republican candidates, according to a tally kept by The New York Times. President-Election Joe BidenJoe BidenMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Biden says staff has spoken with Fauci: 'He's been very, very helpful' MORE topped all groups, with 79.7 million votes.

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Yet the Democrats' national numerical advantage did not protect a number of vulnerable House incumbents, at least 11 of whom have already lost their races to GOP challengers, with eight races still too close to call.

Additionally, Democrats failed to topple a single Republican incumbent, among a list of more than three dozen they'd targeted as vulnerable, even as Pelosi and other party leaders had predicted big gains as late as Election Day itself.

For Democrats, the disappointing results have sparked some internal finger-pointing between moderates and liberals over who bears the blame. They also mean that Pelosi will have a slimmer majority in the next Congress, leaving little room for defections within the ranks as Democrats seek to move Biden's expansive legislative agenda.

Pelosi on Friday acknowledged the disappointment of losing incumbents but suggested Democrats were disadvantaged by what she described as "the most gerrymandered, voter-suppressed political arena you could name."

The Speaker also emphasized the difficulty of defending seats in Trump country — dozens of them seized from Republicans in 2018 — with the president at the top of the ticket.

"I said then it's going to be harder next time because he'll be on the ballot. And it was. And it was," Pelosi said.

"But imagine, nearly 2 million more votes than Donald Trump, and people say, 'Well, the Democrats didn't turn out [their voters],'" she added. "No, we did. We turned out our vote."