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Now, she governs over the minority in the House, and prospects for her winning back the Speakership this year are theoretically possible, but unlikely.
"The most thrilling of all was to be the chair of the convention last time, to gavel the nomination of Barack Obama to be president of the United States. That was pretty thrilling," she said Wednesday. "This is thrilling in another way."
But her message to supporters this week focuses on the possible.
"The opportunity is there," she said at a National Journal/The Atlantic luncheon Tuesday. "It's on the ground, mano-a-mano. We're not yielding 100 percent because we think so much is at stake."
While she looks forward, her boosters are also taking the time to look back. At the Monday breakfast, supporters held signs reading, "Celebrating Nancy Pelosi: 25 Years of Leadership."
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said she is "the best leader in the history of the United States Congress," while Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) called her "the greatest Speaker in the history of the United States" - and both vowed to work tirelessly to return her to that standing.
Asked if they think she is on the way out, Members give a resounding, "No."
"Nancy gets to do what Nancy wants because she's earned it, and she's going to work hard for it," Becerra said after the event. "Leader Pelosi knows that lots of us would like her to be Speaker Pelosi."
And after all, Lewis said later, House Democrats need her.
"It's not about age, years of service. She's the most effective leader I've seen on our side of the House for a long time. And she's the best fundraiser, and we need money to win elections," he said.
When asked Wednesday, Pelosi singled out Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (Md.), DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Becerra, the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, as future leaders of the party. But few think they are ready to take the reins just yet, and that sentiment is almost certainly shared by Pelosi - for now.