Heath Shuler is getting a lot of attention for his losing bid to challenge Nancy Pelosi for House Democratic leader. He got 43 votes in a secret ballot election. But it seems to me that his challenge was less about defeating Pelosi than avoiding defeat himself. Shuler will be able to say he didn't vote for Pelosi when he next faces the voters in 2012. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, arguably the last authentically conservative Democrat in Congress, lost his reelection bid this year largely because he voted for Pelosi for speaker.
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