Vin Weber, a former Republican Congressman from Minnesota and top advisor to Newt Gingrich, said something interesting about Nancy Pelosi right before the election. “She will be as effective a Speaker as the party will allow her to be,” Weber said.

In the wake of her surprise endorsement of Jack Murtha for House Majority Leader, many in the party and press are already questioning Pelosi’s judgement. “The biggest puzzle, and biggest disappointment,” wrote Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, “is Pelosi, who was pitch-perfect in her first several days as speaker-elect.” In other words, what is she thinking?

Maybe there is an easy explanation for why Pelosi would use so much of her political capitol on backing Murtha. “Hoyer and his aides have consistently worked to undercut Nancy Pelosi since she defeated him to become minority leader,” former Congressman Les AuCoin, a liberal Democrat from Oregon from 1974 to 1992, wrote yesterday. “Now Nancy is backing Jack Murtha over Hoyer, the current Democratic whip. Why would a shrewd operater like Nancy take such a risk before even being sworn in as speaker? Simple: She thinks Hoyer, as majority leader, will work as hard to cut her throat as to perform his duties.”

Pelosi needs a deputy she can trust. This race may not be about Iraq or corruption, but about who will allow her to be the most “effective” Speaker. That’s why she’s going all out, calling members of Congress and urging them to back Murtha.

“She will ensure that they [the Murtha camp] wins,” Congressman Jim Moran told the Hill. “We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it.”

We’ll see.