Chris Cillizza over at “The Fix” has an interesting look at the risks and rewards of Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi’s decision to come out publicly for Rep. John Murtha’s Maj Leader bid.
What I’m puzzled about is why Pelosi would put, as DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel is fond of saying, “skin in the game” in this contest. Her support for Murtha is no secret. The burly Pennsylvanian ran Pelosi’s race for Min Whip (against Murtha’s rival, current Min Whip Steny Hoyer) in 2001, and has been a loyal ally ever since. What’s more, two of Murtha’s most vocal supporters are veteran California Rep’s George Miller and Anna Eshoo — who happen to be two of Pelosi’s closest friends in the Congress. If Murtha wins, and she doesn’t go public, it’s yet another testament, on the heels of her installing Emanuel as Caucus chair and averting a bloody contest for Whip, to her shrewd, behind-the-scenes skills. The stories, fed by ample leaks, all would have read the same: “Pelosi Works Backchannels; Gets Her Man For #2 Slot.”
If Murtha loses on Thursday, and Pelosi never makes her intentions know, she would’ve at least had plausible deniability about her involvement. But now she risks her honeymoon on what is very much not a sure thing. Remember, members don’t have to face the prospect of payback for spurning their Speaker’s preferred choice for Maj Leader — it’s a secret ballot.
Hoyer backers assure that Pelosi’s stepping out only came because Murtha needed the help, and that it’s a paper endorsement only. There may be something to this. From what I’m told, Pelosi has yet to get on the phone for her chosen candidate.