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Leadership shuffle in Congress? The drama is all on the winning side.

In both chambers of Congress, the postelection intrigue about leadership posts is mostly on the Republican side of the aisle, as the GOP establishment confronts the tea party insurgency.

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The colorful contest on the Republican side is for conference leader, the No. 4 leadership role responsible for messaging. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a leading fiscal conservative backed by Cantor, faces a challenge from Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who founded and chairs the House Tea Party Caucus. Ms. Bachmann is backed by conservative activist and FOX TV host Glenn Beck, who is urging his supporters to call their GOP representatives to vote for her.

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Constitutional conservative

“All across American conservatives won big and it’s important that a constitutional conservative be at the leadership table,” says Bachmann spokesman Sergio Gor. The Tea Party Caucus has some 50 members in the current Congress and is expecting dozens more, he says. “She recruited over 50 challengers, a lot of whom got elected, and it’s important to bring that into leadership,” he added.

“She brings excitement and energy to House Republican leadership, a fresh face and a female face – someone more closely aligned with some of the tea party idealism and activism that was so important in this election. But at the same time, she brings recklessness,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University.

The unknown in the post-election leadership shakeout is the intentions of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. For now, members are waiting for Pelosi to consult with colleagues and family over her next moves. In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Wednesday, Pelosi said she was still “very confident about the decisions that we made,” but added that it’s a question whether leadership should have been “talking about it more and working on it less.”

More than a dozen House Democrats called for Pelosi to step down during the 2010 campaign. A powerful and respected speaker, Pelosi prodded her caucus to take tough votes on the assurance that the public would support health-care reform, once its features were understood. That advice did not pan out. But some left-leaning Democrats are already saying that the way to reactivate frustrated Democratic voters is to push a more progressive agenda.

In a memo released Thursday, Democratic strategists Ed Kilgore, James Vega, and J.P. Green urged Democrats to resist being drawn into a “Dems in disarray” narrative. “It is urgent that Democrats seriously try to agree upon certain basic understandings about how to maintain the maximum degree of unity and cohesion as a political coalition and community while still engaging in a robust internal debate about the meaning and lessons of the election,” they wrote in The Democratic Strategist.

IN PICTURES: Election Day

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