House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will run for minority leader in a statement today. It had been widely expected that Pelosi, 70, would retire. But, after she spent much of the last two days calling virtually every member of her shrunken caucus, she said she came to the conclusion that her “work is far from finished.” From her statement:
As a result of Tuesday’s election, the role of Democrats in the 112th Congress will change, but our commitment to serving the American people will not. We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back. It is my hope that we can work in a bipartisan way to create jobs and strengthen the middle class
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.
Given Pelosi’s popularity with the progressive caucus and how few Blue Dogs are left — thus far 29 of the 52 have lost their seats with several races yet to be called — she’s a shoe in for minority leader. Moments after she put out her statement, her #2, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who has lived in her shadow for decades hoping for a shot at the top slot, announced he’s weighing a run for minority whip. In the minority the whip is the #2. From his statement:
Speaker Pelosi has announced that she will be running for Democratic Leader in the next Congress. In the days since the election, I have received an outpouring of support from Democratic colleagues who have told me that I should remain in our party’s leadership, so that our Caucus can hit the ground running with a strong, tested leadership team. Over the next several days, I will continue to speak to my colleagues about serving our Caucus as Democratic Whip, and I will announce a decision after I have consulted with them.
But in a twist, the current whip, #3 Democrat Jim Clyburn, announced he will challenge Hoyer. Clyburn, a South Carolina Dem, is a leading member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the highest ranking African American ever to serve in the House. From his letter to colleagues:
I am seeking your support and vote for Democratic Whip. Throughout the course of my tenure, I have demonstrated the ability and willingness to give selfless service to our Caucus. My record of leadership in our Caucus has prepared me well for the challenges ahead. I am confident we can rebuild the coalition that carried Democrats and President Obama into office in 2008 and that it will lead us on the road back to the majority in 2012.
There is general acknowledgement that we lost the communications battle on too many fronts. And while our defeat cannot entirely be attributed to a communications problem, I believe it was a significant factor. I know that good policy does not always make for good politics, but I also know that good records and effective messaging do. To regain our majority, Democrats must offer a clear and concise narrative that wins back the trust and allegiance of independent, middle class, and moderate voters. They need to KNOW that we are on their side. In both message and strategy, we must tap into the innate optimism of the American people—noting that while the times are challenging, there has never been a better time to be living in America, and that our policies will create greater opportunities for all Americans.
Hoyer, a pro-business Maryland moderate, lost much of his power base in the 60+ seats that have been wiped out. At the same time, he has survived challenges from the left before: when Pelosi was first elected Speaker she endorsed Pennsylvania’s Jack Murtha only to see the caucus defy her and elect Hoyer resoundingly. Still, Clyburn starts with a built in advantage with the CBC, which has more than 30 members going into the next session. We won’t know the results for a while as leadership elections are not generally held until the new class is seated in January.