House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can credit the drubbing House Democrats received for putting her in a strong position to keep her leadership post. Democrats lost 36 of the 48 members who represent districts that John McCain carried in 2008, wiping out much of the party's moderate wing that would be most resistant to Pelosi's return to power.
Instead, the new House Democratic conference is now disproportionately filled with liberals representing safe districts, who have always been her natural base of support. That makes her return to leadership in the minority very likely - she wouldn't announce her intention to run without a sense she has the votes.
But the optics for Democrats couldn't be worse, given that the White House is trying to turn the page on a disastrous year and that many Senate Democrats up for re-election hail from conservative-minded states. And the prospect of House Democrats making headway in 2012 with Pelosi as their leader - and a tougher map thanks to redistricting won't help - certainly take a hit.
Already a handful of surviving liberal members in swing districts, like Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), have publicly announced their reticence to see Pelosi return. And many of the remaining Blue Dogs and conservatives - Reps. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.), among others - have already expressed opposition to her return.
But given the Republican tidal wave wiping out the centrist wing of the party, there aren't too many Democrats left in competitive districts who can prevent her comeback - and that's not music to the ears of many Democratic strategists looking to plot a comeback in 2012.