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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) frantically travels the country as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) represents the Democratic Caucus at nearly every negotiating table on high-profile fiscal issues. But neither they nor other rising stars in the Caucus have emerged as the most likely leader following a retirement by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The lack of a frontrunner in a would-be leadership fight, still unlikely at this point, has some party elders irked that no one has organized the kind of operation Pelosi used to win her first leadership bid back in 2001.
“That next generation has the skill sets that fit the leadership mold so well, but somebody has to make a move, and we haven’t seen anybody positioning yet,” one veteran Democrat said. “You run a risk if you’re not positioning yourself, and you’ll end up in an all-out sprint in a marathon.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) recently staffed up, putting to rest any suggestion he is considering retirement. Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) is term-limited in his role, but some presume he could try to make a play for another leadership job. Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) appears safe in his job, although a retirement by the 10-term lawmaker could make room at the top.
Potential successors to Pelosi and those top Democratic leaders, however, contend now is not the time to organize, given that there are no spots open in the party’s top ranks and what positions might become available largely hinge on the 2012 elections.
“I really do believe, especially when you’re in the minority, your focus is on getting there,” Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra said of the upcoming elections. “And then I think things will become clear, the dust will settle. I don’t think it’ll be a total uncertainty to see what rises up.”
The Californian predicted that if Democrats win the House in November, “most people in the Democratic Caucus, I believe, will be prepared to ask Nancy Pelosi to serve again as Speaker.”
Pelosi has not hinted at retirement even though some Congressional observers suspect she might after the elections. Of course, onlookers assumed she would step down after the bruising midterm elections only to watch her line up the votes to be Minority Leader.