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Other ambitious and able House Democrats ought to be on any list of potential players.
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, 44, is politically savvy and a frequent television guest, and she is one of the Democrats’ Chief Deputy Whips. She also serves as a Democratic National Committee vice chairwoman.
But Wasserman Schultz’s ambition — she is sometimes accused of being a “title collector” and was bitter when she was not selected by her party’s leader to chair the DCCC — has made her something of a polarizing figure.
New York Rep. Joe Crowley, 48, can’t be ignored. Although he lost a fight for Democratic Caucus vice chairman to Connecticut Rep. John Larson in 2006 and, according to one smart observer, “really misplayed his leadership hand initially,” Crowley seems to have learned the right lessons and certainly could be a factor in future leadership contests.
As far as freshmen, insiders finger Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.), 44, and Rep. Gary Peters (Mich.), 52, as potential leadership material, though with the important caveat that redistricting could jeopardize Peters’ House career.
A handful of African-Americans in the House seem most likely to move up the party ladder, with freshman Rep. Karen Bass, 57, who served as Speaker of the California Assembly, and Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), 47, the most obvious names.
Interestingly, Bass and Ellison would likely rank far down the list of potential leaders had three highly regarded African-American Democrats chosen to remain in the House rather than seek higher office. But the exits of Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (Tenn.) in 2006 and Reps. Kendrick Meek (Fla.) and Artur Davis (Ala.) last year created an opening for others.
It’s impossible to know when the Democratic leadership logjam will start to break up. But when it does, there is sure to be a scramble among the “next generation” of ambitious Democrats who have been waiting for an opportunity to show their stuff.
Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.