(CNSNews.com) - "I thought I'd just come by and tell you how exhilarated I am by the strong vote that I have from my colleagues as we go forward," Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday after she was re-elected to the Democrat leadership post she's held for the past 14 years.
Pelosi noted that her fellow House Democrats have honored her with the leadership role in the past, and while "that's exciting," she said Wednesday's election "has a special excitement for me because I think we're at a time that is well beyond politics. It's about the character of America. And how we go forward in our caucus to put forth our values, which are what unite us as a caucus, to differentiate between us and the administration that will come into Washington in January, to take that message clearly to the public is something that is of historic challenge."
Pelosi won with 134 votes, but 63 Democrats voted for Pelosi's much younger challenger, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, the best showing for a challenger since Pelosi first became the Democrat leader in 2003.
"The American people see the urgency," Pelosi said on Wednesday. "We know how to win elections. We've done it in the past, we will do it again by making that differentiation.
"But again, this is so much bigger than politics. It's about the character of America, the responsibility to the people, our obligation to our founders, our gratitude to our men and women in uniform and our respect for the aspirations of America's children and our families."
Pelosi said she plans to bring Democrats together: "My heart is broken that we did not win the White House this time. That is -- it's a pain and not for me personally, but for what it means to the American people. So I would trade anything not to have this opportunity of opposing an administration.
"Where we can engage, we will. Where we...need to oppose, we will. But nonetheless, this does afford an opportunity so that the congressional Democrats can go forward and remove all doubt that never again will we have an election where there's any doubt in anyone's mind where the Democrats are when it comes to America's working families."
After congratulating Ryan on a "good race," Pelosi said she plans to work "with all of our colleagues from the beautiful diversity of our caucus to put forth a message that does connect with the American people."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted on Wednesday that although Pelosi and President Obama haven't agreed on every issue, they have worked effectively together:
"The president himself has said on many occasions that so many of the accomplishments that this administration would not have been possible without the skill, toughness, values and leadership of Nancy Pelosi," Earnest said.