With victory comes battle for top leadership spots

As soon as it became clear Tuesday night that control of the House was changing hands, ambitious lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began shoring up support for what could be several hotly contested leadership races.

On the Democratic side, the culmination of months -- and in a few cases, years -- of work now pays off with several top majority positions up for grabs. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., soon to be promoted to speaker, has yet to weigh in on several key leadership races including those for majority leader and majority whip. "It is something that will sort itself out," a Pelosi spokesman said early Wednesday morning. "Whatever the races are, it is a unified caucus, and we will be unified after as well."

But the looming leadership fights were clearly on the mind of several Democratic lawmakers. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. -- facing what many within the Caucus view as a long-shot challenge from Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania for the post of majority leader -- was calling members Tuesday evening even before it was announced that Democrats took control of the House.

Hoyer has made it clear he intends to capitalize on campaign efforts that took him to 80 districts over the last two years. By early this morning, Hoyer had released a statement reiterating his candidacy for the post and stressing his role in winning the majority. He added that he is "very confident" of his support within the Democratic Caucus.

Leadership sources said Democratic Reps. Kendrick Meek of Florida and Tim Ryan of Ohio -- both, like Murtha, Pelosi allies -- will circulate a letter Wednesday supporting Murtha's bid. New Democrats, meanwhile, are said to be talking about their strengthened role and crediting the strong support that Hoyer gave moderate candidates this cycle.

Ultimately, the slate of candidates for majority whip and lower posts in the Democratic leadership will depend on whether Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois decides to remain in his position, step out of the limelight or run for whip. Emanuel said on CNN Wednesday morning he would decide within the next 24 hours on his plans.

"We have to see what Rahm's intentions are," said one Democratic leadership aide. "He has a lot of momentum behind him."

If he does go for the whip position, Emanuel would be in a strong position to defeat Democratic Caucus Chairman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the only black member of the Democratic leadership. But that scenario is rife with problems for Pelosi, who needs to retain strong support from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Clyburn has been reaching out to members over the past couple of weeks, an effort that, along with visits to 25 districts in 14 states over the last three weeks, has helped him gain support. But some within the caucus question whether the well-liked Clyburn can run a tough-enough whip operation, an issue that opens up the possibility of a challenge even if Emanuel does not run for whip.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., has signaled her interest in the position, with her supporters citing both the lack of a consensus candidate and the toughness she showed in stepping out to attack the GOP in the wake of the congressional page scandal. A DeGette spokesman said that she would not run for majority whip if Emanuel decides to run.

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