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A Primer: House Leadership Races Under a GOP Takeover

Updated 6:18 p.m.

If the anticipated GOP tidal wave hits and Republicans take the House majority, both parties will see a scramble for top leadership posts.

Republicans would add an elected leadership post, while Democrats lose one.

The top two slots for Republicans appear set, but the rest of the lineup is a little murkier.

SPEAKER: Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) is poised to become Speaker without a serious challenge.

MAJORITY LEADER: Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) likely ascends without challenge.

MAJORITY WHIP: Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) has been eyeing the Majority Whip post, with National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) facing a decision of whether to try to challenge McCarthy, serve another term at the NRCC or vie for a lesser post. McCarthy said recently that he thinks Sessions should stay at the NRCC. Sessions has been a Boehner loyalist, and Boehner has in the past sought to avoid divisive leadership battles below him.

CONFERENCE CHAIR: Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) will have to decide quickly whether or not to step down to focus on a run for governor or president. If Pence vacates the job, several Republicans could vie for the post, including Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.). But Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), a prodigious fundraiser and prominent conservative who nearly had the post before Boehner engineered Pence’s ascension two years ago, seems to be the favorite again. Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), a vocal conservative and leading fundraiser, is also said to be considering a run.

CONFERENCE VICE CHAIR: McMorris Rodgers could reprise her role if she doesn’t shoot higher.

The GOP leadership could also find a slot for Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) ‘ perhaps as policy chairman replacing Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.), who earlier this year proposed abolishing the post. And Chairman of the Leadership Greg Walden (Ore.), a rising star in the Conference, could remain in his post if he doesn’t take the reins at the NRCC.

Democrats, meanwhile, would lose one of their a leadership slots if they become the minority party, likely leaving Members scrambling to determine how ‘ or if ‘ they figure into the new framework.

MINORITY LEADER: The post Nancy Pelosi held for four years before becoming Speaker would almost certainly be hers again if she wanted it.

The California Democrat has been mum about what role she might play in a Democratic minority; she and her staff have refused to entertain the possibility of a GOP takeover.

But many Democrats have privately speculated that Pelosi would bow out of leadership altogether in a Democratic minority, and a competitive race for Minority Leader may already be brewing. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer would be the heir apparent for the post, and has strong support within the Caucus. The Maryland Democrat has laid out a vision for a moderate agenda in a series of policy speeches earlier this year, although he has been careful to avoid looking like he is eager to push Pelosi out.

But a source close to Caucus Chairman John Larson recently said the Connecticut Democrat had been approached by Members about the possibility of challenging Hoyer for leader job. Democrats on K Street and Capitol Hill also speculate that other members of leadership ‘ including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) or Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) ‘ could contemplate a run for Minority Leader.

Van Hollen and Hoyer have been leapfrogging each other in the past week as the top contributors to the DCCC, with Van Hollen edging in front Friday with another $200,000 check. That brings him to $1.8 million, which is quadruple his DCCC dues and is enough to edge Hoyer. Van Hollen has also separately raised or contributed about $20 million for the DCCC or candidates ‘ far above anybody other than Pelosi.

Others speculate that the Minority Leader race could turn into a free-for-all, particularly if Democrats suffer heavier-than-expected losses. If that happens, an outside challenge could come from an ambitious, younger Member who is not part of elected leadership, such as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) or Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.).

MINORITY WHIP: Majority Whip James Clyburn said earlier this year that he plans to be Whip in the 112th Congress, regardless of the outcome of the elections, and there’s no reason to think the South Carolina Democrat has modified those plans.

If Pelosi were to stay on as Minority Leader and Clyburn runs for Whip, Hoyer would have to decide whether to fight for one of the spots, with neither prospect particularly appealing.

There also has been repeated speculation that Clyburn might find a position in the Obama administration rather than stick around in the minority. Crowley, Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) are all Chief Deputy Whips and could be inclined to jump into a Whip race if Clyburn were to step aside, although DeGette hasn’t proven to be a particularly strong fundraiser. If Clyburn were to leave, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus could also be interested in running for leadership.

CAUCUS CHAIR: Larson’s hold on the position could be shaky, with some Democrats questioning the depth of his Caucus support. If Van Hollen does not aim higher, he could try to challenge Larson for the party’s No. 3 elected leadership post, though the same could be true for Becerra and several others. If Hoyer secures a high-profile leadership slot, Van Hollen would have to convince Members that his leadership and fundraising skills outweigh having two white men from suburban Maryland in leadership.

CAUCUS VICE CHAIR: Becerra is expected to keep the job unless he decides to run for a higher-profile post. Becerra brings support from the California delegation, as well as the Hispanic Caucus.

If Pelosi goes, Democrats in her inner circle ‘ including Policy and Steering co-chairs Reps. George Miller (Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) ‘ could also be vulnerable in a broader shakeup.

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