By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Why was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) smiling so broadly as she entered a Democratic caucus Wednesday?

Because she knew what was about to happen – a stinging defeat for the attempt by dissident Democrats – most notably, North Shore Congressman Seth Moulton – to prevent her from regaining the speakership when the Democrats take control of the House in January.

“This election was a call for change,” Moulton told his constituents at a raucous town hall meeting last week. “It was a call for change in our country, for change in our party.”

But many of those in attendance clutching “I’m with Nancy” signs and – most importantly – most of Moulton’s peers in Congress weren’t buying his spin.

“The whole attack on Leader Pelosi was that ‘you can’t win with Nancy Pelosi,'” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Connecticut) in a CNN interview. “Well son of a gun, we won in Oklahoma, we won in Kansas, we won in South Carolina, places we never imagined we would win.”

Moulton had a significant number colleagues signing on with him coming out of election day, but Pelosi has been peeling them off one by one, including Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who Moulton had named as a possible replacement for Pelosi.

And along with getting the cold shoulder for his demands from Pelosi during a meeting Wednesday, Moulton couldn’t even rally support among his home state colleagues. One of his original backers, Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston), said today he could be persuaded to back Pelosi.

Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-Brookline), a staunch Pelosi ally, introduced her at Wednesday’s meeting. In a WBZ interview this week, he acknowledged the desire of younger members for change and a succession plan at the top, but added: “There’s also a need for a legislative expert, somebody that knows how to unify a caucus, knows how to fight back….that’s Nancy Pelosi.”

And late Wednesday afternoon, Pelosi won a sweeping endorsement from her fellow Democrats. “Our diversity is our strength, but our unity is our power,” she said afterwards.

Unless he can defy the odds and rally more people behind between now and the final vote in January, Moulton is an obvious loser here. Winners include Kennedy, and his colleague Rep. Jim McGovern of Worcester, who might have lost his shot at a crucial committee chairmanship if Moulton had prevailed.

It all goes to show, if you’re going to take on a powerful person, you’d better have your ducks in a row first, a lesson Moulton is learning the hard way.

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