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Many House liberals support her. But a number of rank-and-file Democrats, including some left of center, are dismayed. They note that dozens of Republican House candidates ran campaigns linking their Democratic opponents to Mrs. Pelosi, who was portrayed as a hardcore liberal hopelessly out of touch with middle American values.

“She definitely hurts,” said Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat, who lost his re-election bid this month. Citing former Republican House leader Tom DeLay, Mr. Taylor said in an interview: “When he realized he was a drag on leadership, he went away. Somehow the Democratic leadership didn’t learn that lesson.”

Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Ben Evans and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.