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Ex-football pro Heath Shuler hopes to sack Nancy Pelosi

Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina is sounding out a challenge to Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader in the House. It's a long-shot effort, but reflects some party members' unease with Pelosi.

By Staff writer / November 13, 2010

Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., greets supporters at his campaign's election return party in Asheville, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Shuler challenged Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.

Alan Marler/AP

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It looks like soon-to-be-ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a challenger to her position as head of beleaguered Democrats in the House of Representatives.

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It’s Rep. Heath Shuler, a relatively conservative lawmaker from North Carolina who avoided the Election Day ouster suffered by many “Blue Dog” Democrats trying to hang onto their seats in red districts where tea party-inspired Republicans were victorious.

“It will be very tough,” Shuler acknowledged to the Clay County Progress newspaper in his home state. “It is probably a race we can’t win. But we need a moderate voice in the Democratic Party.”

He’ll no doubt elaborate when he appears on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday and then on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday. But he’s right about his chances of ousting Pelosi.

The first woman to hold the most senior position in the House, Pelosi is acknowledged to be one of the most effective Speakers in congressional history – both in terms of organizing her party’s troops and in getting her agenda passed.

But that also made her a big, fat political target for Republicans (and especially tea partyers), for whom “Fire Pelosi” became a campaign rallying cry.

Some moderate-to-conservative House members have privately said they’d prefer a less politically-toxic minority leader to bring them back from the wilderness. But most senior House Democrats have lined up behind her, and the party avoided an in-house fight between Reps. Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn over the number two slot by creating a new position for Clyburn, making him the third-ranking Democrat in the House behind Pelosi and Hoyer.

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