What Does Rahm Want?

From last Friday’s Roll Call (subscription required):

“Preparing for a potential Democratic victory on Election Day, House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.) has begun rounding up support for a would-be bid for the Majority Whip’s office.”

The subtext to Clybrun’s move is the question of what Rahm Emanuel, the architect of the House Democrats’ campaign strategy, wants out of a Democratic takeover.

No one doubts that he’d like to move into a leadership post, but the politics of it are very tricky for him. Taking on Nancy Pelosi for Speaker would probably be suicidal, and a bid for Majority Leader against Steny Hoyer (the current Minority Whip) and John Murtha (who has announced his intention to run if the Democrats secure a majority) would be impractical.

But Majority Whip, the number three post on the majority side, could be a winnable race – and would position Emanuel very nicely for the future, since the 66-year-old Pelosi, 67-year-old Hoyer and 74-year-old Murtha are all on the back nine of their careers. Hence the pre-emptive maneuvering of Clyburn, who as Caucus Chairman is now the third-ranking House Democrat.

An Emanuel-Clyburn contest could get very ugly, very quickly, though. The 66-year-old Clyburn, a courtly South Carolinian, is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, a key 43-member component of the Democratic coalition whose leaders would almost assuredly demand – loudly – that Pelosi weigh in on Clyburn’s behalf. And the would-be Speaker certainly doesn’t want an intra-party bloodbath to serve as her new House majority’s introduction to America.

– Steve Kornacki