As Nancy Pelosi goes, so might a generation of her colleagues.
If Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives next week, as most political observers expect, there is a good chance that the House Speaker will opt to spend time with her eight grandchildren rather than toil in the relative obscurity of the minority. Even if she wanted to stay on, it's not at all clear that she would win the position of minority leader: seven Democratic incumbents and several candidates oppose her leadership — on Wednesday, North Carolina Representative Heath Shuler suggested he might challenge Pelosi for the spot — and another 20 have refused to say one way or another. Pelosi is more likely to leave gracefully, trading the red-eye slog for the pleasant commute between her San Francisco and Napa homes, and leaving the caucus in the hands of majority leader Steny Hoyer, who has been chafing in her shadow for decades. (See TIME's list of 2010's congressional races to watch.)
A quick retirement is not an uncommon choice for the boss of the losing party; Newt Gingrich stepped down three days after losing five seats in 1998, saving his party a potentially divisive leadership election he could well have lost. And the only reason Denny Hastert (who succeeded Gingrich) lingered for more than a year after shedding his Speaker's mantle in 2007 was to keep his Illinois seat warm for his son, who never made it past the primary.