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Hoyer, Murtha Battle

But even if Emanuel decides against challenging Clyburn for the post, the South Carolina lawmaker could still face competition. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the current Chief Deputy Minority Whip, has not spoken publicly about her interest in the post, but is nonetheless expected to enter the race if Emanuel does not.

Clyburn officially announced his bid Wednesday in a letter to fellow lawmakers — although he began actively seeking endorsements in mid-October — touting his previous leadership experience, including chairing the Congressional Black Caucus as well as serving three years as the Democratic Caucus vice chairman.

“You run for the next office by serving well in the office you hold,” Clyburn said during the DCCC’s election watch party Tuesday night.

In the meantime, Pelosi, who is expected to ascend to the Speaker’s office in January when Democrats take control of the House, has demurred on whether she will offer her own endorsement in the leadership races, asserting at a Wednesday press conference that Democrats first needed to finalize the outcome of several races.

“Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship,” Pelosi said at a midday press conference, her first in the wake of the Tuesday victory. “Democrats are not about getting even,” she later added. “Democrats are about helping America get ahead.”

Some Democratic strategists have suggested Pelosi should intervene in the Hoyer-Murtha contest in order to avoid a divisive inter-party squabble so soon after a major electoral victory, but the California Democrat has not done so yet.

“I think that this has to play out on its own,” said a top House Democratic staffer, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Another senior House aide said Pelosi “was staying on the sidelines” and has not indicated any willingness to take sides.

Murtha has won kudos from many in the party for his opposition to President Bush on the Iraq War, despite intense criticism from House and Senate GOP leaders, as well as conservative commentators. Hoyer, while not close to Pelosi personally, has raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates and incumbents, and spent extensive time on the road this election cycle, all of which earned him support within the Democratic Caucus.

In the interim, Democrats will hold an organizational meeting Tuesday, one of the first steps as the Caucus prepare to take over the majority party role it last held in 1994.

According to Capuano, who has overseen a review of the internal Caucus rules in recent months, Democrats will vote Tuesday on a new package of guidelines, covering everything from the selection of committee chairmen to more mundane regulations.

“There’s no real shake-up in these rules, the real shake-up will come in the House rules,” Capuano said.

Senior House Democratic aides said Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have otherwise done almost no preparatory work on taking over physical control of the House.

Pelosi has not appointed a trusted Democrat to oversee the transition to Democratic rule, a tactic former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) employed when the GOP won control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections.

Pelosi was very sensitive to accusations by President Bush and other Republican leaders that Democrats “were measuring the drapes” at the Capitol for a takeover, they purposely delayed any transition planning.

“[Pelosi] put the nix on anyone doing the transition,” said a high-ranking Democratic aide.

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