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By Emma Dumain, CQ Roll Call (MCT)

In her first public remarks since Election Day, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her decision to run to keep her post atop the House Democratic Caucus, and doesn’t sound likely to relinquish her post anytime soon.

“I don’t understand why this question should even come up,” the California Democrat said at a press conference Thursday. “I’m here as long as the members want me to be here.

Pelosi suggested that she wasn’t, as many expect, looking to serve one more term as Minority Leader before retiring in 2016 — when, colleagues hope, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be elected president.

“I’m not here on a schedule,” Pelosi said, “except for a mission to get a job done.”

She also hinted that there was implicit sexism in the constant rhetoric of “will she or won’t she.”

“When was the last time you asked Mitch McConnell … ‘Aren’t you getting a little old, Mitch?'” said Pelosi of the Republican senator from Kentucky.

McConnell, who is 72, has been in Senate GOP leadership since 2003 and the minority leader since 2007. He was earlier on Thursday elected Senate majority leader for the 114th Congress.

At 74 years old, Pelosi has been in House Democratic leadership since 2002 — and has been at the very top of the caucus power structure since 2003.

Pelosi acknowledged that the 2014 midterm elections were disappointing for her colleagues, especially for the incumbents who lost. She reiterated an argument she has made over the past week that the Democratic Party needs to do more in the next two years to engage a whole new base of voters, saying that the campaign should revolve around the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

She said she would be spending Thursday afternoon engaging in some post-election activities, like making a final selection for the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Pelosi also made another pitch for her close friend and fellow Californian Anna G. Eshoo to be the next ranking member on Energy and Commerce. The Steering and Policy Committee is set to vote between Eshoo and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey next week.

“I think, sometimes, in the course of our legislative lives, a person comes along who’s the perfect fit to take us into the future,” said Pelosi of Eshoo.

AFP Photo/Chip Somodevilla

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