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Busy Chris Van Hollen Looking at Leadership?

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, could be eyeing a leadership position within the Democratic Caucus.

On the conference calls, Van Hollen delivers the party message on the Ryan budget and counters Republican accusations that Democrats have cut Medicare by enacting the 2010 health care law. Then, the House candidate chimes in with the local implications of the Ryan budget blueprint.

Other Democratic leaders are also active on the campaign trail. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) has sent fundraising appeals as well, and he recently campaigned in Rhode Island for Rep. David Cicilline (D). And on Wednesday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who is running for Caucus Vice Chairman, made a fundraising appeal to Illinois House candidate Brad Schneider’s supporter list.

The scenario that some Democrats envision is that Van Hollen would be the beneficiary of a Pelosi-backed challenge to Hoyer for the Minority Leader’s job, should she step down after the elections. That could be the final chapter in the long and storied Pelosi-Hoyer rivalry.

But the hurdles would be significant. Hoyer appears to maintain strong support in the Caucus and he’s served loyally for years under Pelosi, giving him a strong argument that it would be  his turn to lead.

Most Democrats say that support would be insurmountable for Van Hollen or anyone else.

Also, both Van Hollen and Hoyer represent Maryland districts, meaning that Van Hollen would have to mount a bold challenge to the dean of his state delegation.

“As ambitious as Van Hollen is, and even with him being a Pelosi ally, I can’t see him doing that,” said a lobbyist plugged into the House Democratic leadership, who explained that such a move could hurt Van Hollen’s standing in the Caucus and in Maryland politics. “People in the Caucus would really frown on that.”

But others keeping an eye on leadership intrigue note that leadership positions do not open up often, and that those in the party’s top echelon are very ambitious. They note that Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), currently Assistant Minority Leader, challenged Hoyer for Whip in 2010, despite their close friendship.

In an interview about his campaign work, Van Hollen declined to discuss leadership issues.

“My read, look, she has been working nonstop first of all. Nancy Pelosi is the hardest-working Member of Congress. She is very focused on trying to elect Democrats to Congress and as she said, she wanted that to be our focus right up to elections,” Van Hollen said. “The elections that are important are the Congressional elections taking place across the country, and Caucus elections should wait until [after] the general election.”

Asked if there would be any circumstance in which he would challenge Hoyer, Van Hollen said, “I’m just focused entirely on ... Nancy Pelosi is working hard to win Democrats, I think it’d be great if she continued to be the Democratic leader.”

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