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Next Up: House Leader Races

While control of the House won’t be determined until tonight at the earliest, contested leadership elections already are brewing on both sides of the aisle.

For the GOP, much of the current leadership’s fate rests on today’s outcome, as the chances of retaining their current posts become more vulnerable with each seat lost. Majority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) are guaranteed a challenge, as are Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.).

House Democrats remain committed to holding their Caucus elections on Nov. 16, but House Republicans are increasingly likely to postpone their scheduled Nov. 15 elections even if they hold on to House control.

Here is the rundown of leadership races on both sides of the aisle:

Republicans

Speaker: If Republicans defy expectations and retain the majority, Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) has reiterated in recent weeks that he intends to run again for an unprecedented fifth term for the top job. Hastert is the longest serving Republican Speaker in history, and while he has been criticized by the rank and file for how he and his top aides managed the fallout from the scandal sparked by former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), he still enjoys a significant reservoir of goodwill from his colleagues.

However, long before the Foley story broke, an increasing number of House Republicans were doubtful that Hastert, who suffers from health problems including diabetes, would serve out a full Congress. Boehner is a likely candidate, but the Ohioan is seen as unlikely to mount a challenge to Hastert, rather waiting for him to exit the House on his own terms.

If Hastert opts to retire, the field could be wide open, with Boehner a likely frontrunner.

Majority/Minority Leader: If for no other reason than that he took over mid-Congress, Boehner is the most likely current Republican to stay in leadership in the 110th Congress.

Rank-and-file Members frequently have cited Boehner’s February elevation to the post as the reason to give him another round at the leadership table. Affable and widely credited for shaking up the top-down leadership style trademarked by his predecessor Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Boehner is in a strong position to hold onto his job. Even in the minority, Boehner could be difficult to defeat, although he will be challenged for the post.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (Texas) is mulling a bid if Republicans lose the House. Similarly, Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, will run for Minority Leader only if Republicans lose the majority.

With the floodgates beginning to open, more Members with leadership ambitions could jump into the race, breaking the field wide open.

Majority/Minority Whip: No one has announced a bid against Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), but most House Republican sources believe Blunt will be challenged regardless of what happens today. Blunt lost his bid for Majority Leader to Boehner earlier this year, and has largely kept his head down since, focusing on fundraising and maintaining the majority through a packed campaign schedule.

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