Saturday, June 10, 2006

Don't Get Excited About Murtha

John Murtha has declared that if House Democrats retake the majority, he intends to seek the Majority Leader spot. The timing of this annoucement is surprising, and it can only tend to split House Democrats. But while Captain Ed does a good job of laying out the possibilities, I think that he and others are overstating the case.

If they retake the majority, Democrats will probably face fights in several key races - Majority Leader, Majority Whip, and in the lesser ranks of leadership. Every Member of the House Democratic Conference knows that. There can't be any real serious campaigning for these posts however, until after election day, because few Democratic Represenatives will commit to a candidate until it becomes clearer that there will actually be such a race.

More importantly, a Hoyer-Murtha race would represent a moderate-moderate fight - at least as far as Democrats are concerned. Because for all his criticism of the Iraq effort, most Democrats still see John Murtha as an old-fashioned pro-defense Democrat. And for such a high-level leadership position, there WILL be a liberal in the race. Also, the Campaign Committee Chairs of both parties have benefitted in leadership races from successful elections. Thus Rahm Emanuel - a rising liberal star - will clearly be a contender for a leadership spot if Democrats retake the House this year, during his term as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Majority Leader will certainly be a likely spot for him to look at.

If Rahm Emanuel were to do what Murtha has just done - declare his intention to seek the Majority Leader spot - it would give the race the liberal that everyone knows it needs, and it will potentially open a liberal-moderate fight within the Democratic caucus. Then Captain Ed's assessment will be spot-on.

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