Congressional insiders are bracing for a tough, divisive battle for House Democrats' number two spot between current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and current whip James Clyburn of South Carolina.
Because Democrats will be in the minority next year, there's one less top leadership position. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seeking to become minority leader. Elections are expected the week of Nov. 15.
Shortly after Pelosi's announcement Friday she would seek the top spot, Hoyer and Clyburn both issued statements.
Clyburn sent Democratic colleagues a lengthy letter explaining his views, stressing the need to communicate better with the public.
"I know that good policy does not always make for good politics, but I also know that good records and effective messaging do," said the House's highest-ranking African-American lawmaker. "To regain our majority, Democrats must offer a clear and concise narrative that wins back the trust and allegiance of independent, middle class, and moderate voters. They need to KNOW that we are on their side."
He urged tapping into "the innate optimism of the American people—noting that while the times are challenging, there has never been a better time to be living in America, and that our policies will create greater opportunities for all Americans."
Hoyer was a bit more equivocal:
"In the days since the election," he said, "I have received an outpouring of support from Democratic colleagues who have told me that I should remain in our party’s leadership, so that our Caucus can hit the ground running with a strong, tested leadership team. Over the next several days, I will continue to speak to my colleagues about serving our Caucus as Democratic Whip, and I will announce a decision after I have consulted with them.”