SALT LAKE CITY — Despite her party's worst defeat in decades, Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats Friday seeking their support in her bid for House minority leader.

But Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, says the outcome of Tuesday's election was a clear mandate from the American people that new leadership is needed.

"We just got whupped in an election. We should listen to the public's desire for change. I don't think we keep the same structure in place," Matheson said Friday.

Matheson, the lone member of the Blue Dog Coalition leadership to survive Tuesday's historic GOP sweep, said he will adapt to the power shift in the House. After five terms in Congress, Matheson has served while Democrats were in the minority and also while they held the majority.

His approach to elected service will not change in this latest upheaval, he said. If members of Congress want to get things done, they simply must reach across the aisle. "That's the best way to get things done," he said. "It always will be."

Although Republicans now hold 240 of the 435 seats in the House, Democrats still control the Senate. Unless Republican members of Congress in the House work in a bipartisan manner, it will be difficult for them to pass their bills in the Senate.

"Really, it's all about your attitude. If you're trying to get things done, you'll get things done," Matheson said.

In her letter to Democratic members of the House, Pelosi wrote in part, "Many of our colleagues have called with their recommendations on how to continue our fight for the middle class, and have encouraged me to run for House Democratic leader. Based on those discussions, and driven by the urgency of protecting health care reform, Wall Street reform, and Social Security and Medicare, I have decided to run," Pelosi wrote.

If Pelosi were the CEO of a failing company, the board of directors and stockholders would call for her ouster. The same would apply to a coach with a losing record. This situation is no different, Matheson said. Other than the letter sent to Democrats, which Matheson had not yet read, he was unclear why Pelosi was seeking a leadership position in the wake of Tuesday's elections.

"I just think if you step back to the 100,000-foot level, it seems very straightforward to me," Matheson said.

e-mail: marjorie@desnews.com