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Democratic Leaders Play Musical Chairs

Reps. Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn

New leadership positions are coming for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip James Clyburn. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to stay on as Democratic leader when her party becomes the minority again in January, she launched a game of musical chairs inside the Democratic caucus.

By losing the majority and the speaker’s gavel, the Democrats find themselves with their four leaders running for only three leadership positions. Someone is going to find himself without a chair when the music stops.

Paul Kane of the Washington Post takes stock of the high-profile battle for minority whip — the number two slot — being contested by Reps. Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn.

“Hoyer has an early lead, with 35 public endorsements in what is otherwise a secret ballot, including Reps. Robert A. Brady (Pa.) and Edward J. Markey (Mass.). He also is highlighting support from Pelosi’s home-state delegation: Reps. Lois Capps, Bob Filner, John Garamendi and Linda T. Sanchez,” writes Kane.

Clyburn has seemed to concede that Hoyer is the favorite. The South Carolinian appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday:

“I probably am the underdog in this race. I’ve only been here eighteen years. Steny has been here around thirty. I have my friends. He’s got his friends. And the two of us are friends. We’re talking constantly,” Clyburn said.

“Steny and I have talked daily throughout this contest and we are not going to leave this contest angry at each other. We’re going to be in a good place when this is all over irrespective of the outcome.”

Clyburn was also asked whether it makes sense for the party to keep its leadership intact after an election night drubbing in which Republicans won more than 60 Democratic seats.

“I think my party feels that this had nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi’s leadership. It had everything to do with an economy that was close to collapse. It had everything to do with an environment that we found ourselves in, that had nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi or the people we had on the field,” Clyburn said.

If Hoyer becomes the party’s number two, then Clyburn and Rep. John Larson of Connecticut will be left with the position of caucus chair when the music stops playing.

Republicans are loving this. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said that if the Democrats elect Pelosi as their leader for the next Congress, they would be sending a strong signal that they didn’t get the message sent by the electorate last Tuesday.

But it’s not just Republicans who believe it may be misguided for the Democratic caucus to stick with Pelosi. The New York Times’ editorial page also seems to think it is a bad idea.

“Ms. Pelosi announced on Friday that she would seek the post of House minority leader. That job is not a good match for her abilities in maneuvering legislation and trading votes, since Democrats will no longer be passing bills in the House. What they need is what Ms. Pelosi has been unable to provide: a clear and convincing voice to help Americans understand that Democratic policies are not bankrupting the country, advancing socialism or destroying freedom….Congressional Democrats need a new champion to stand against a tightly disciplined Republican insurgency.”

NO REST FOR THE WEARY

The polls hadn’t even been closed for 48 hours last week before former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., took to first-in-the-nation New Hampshire to participate in a must-do event for any presidential aspirant, “Politics and Eggs.”

From her Granite State perch, the Associated Press’ Holly Ramer writes up the 2012 presidential race that is already well underway.

“Asked to choose among four potential candidates, about four in 10 Republicans said they want former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to win the 2012 primary, according to exit polls conducted Tuesday for The Associated Press. About a fifth of the Republicans favored former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, putting her about even with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and slightly ahead of House Speaker Newt Gingrich,” Ramer writes.

“Romney remained the top choice among independents, who outnumber either Republicans or Democrats and can vote in either primary, though more independent voters said they want ‘someone else’ other than the four named Republicans to win.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., who may have to stay on the current job a bit longer than planned if the contest to succeed remains unresolved early next year, was asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley about those early 2012 poll numbers.

“Well, I don’t know for sure what I’m going to do after I’m done being governor, Candy. I’ll decide that early next year. And as to the poll, you know, a lot of those early polls, whether it’s me running or somebody else, reflect familiarity, name ID, and I — you know, you see front-runners in the past with similar situations that change over time,” Pawlenty said.

“So these early polls I don’t think mean much for me or any other potential candidates, especially if you haven’t run before and aren’t well-known,” he added.

Another potential 2012 hopeful, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., appeared on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” on Sunday and put forth his decision-making timetable, too.

“My family and I are going to take our time to prayerfully consider ways that we can serve our state and serve our nation in the years ahead,” Pence said before adding that he would make a decision after the first of the year.

BLOOMBERG’S TOUGH TALK

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had some harsh words over the weekend for the new members of Congress elected last Tuesday.

“If you look at the U.S., you look at who we’re electing to Congress, to the Senate — they can’t read,” Bloomberg told the Wall Street Journal while on a visit to China for the C40 summit, a meeting of leaders from top cities around the world.

“I’ll bet you a bunch of these people don’t have passports. We’re about to start a trade war with China if we’re not careful here,” Bloomberg cautioned, “only because nobody knows where China is. Nobody knows what China is.”

The comments appeared to be aimed at Republicans, who gained at least 60 seats in the House and six in the Senate in the midterm elections.

The New York Daily News picked up on Bloomberg’s remarks and put them to a handful of Republicans. GOP operative Ed Rollins called the statement “foolish,” adding that “sometimes there is an arrogance on the mayor’s part and this just shows it.”

But veteran New York Congressman Peter King defended Bloomberg to the Daily News, saying: “I agree with him to some extent. Too many members of Congress in both parties don’t pay attention to foreign policy generally, including trade issues.”

The comments could be tough to explain to Tea Party supporters and other conservatives should Bloomberg decide to launch a much-rumored independent bid for president.

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