The Corner

Silent Steny

In watching Steny Hoyer this morning at his presser, I was struck by his refusal to even offer the smallest tweak of his rival for Majority Leader, John Murtha. But I think I understand it.

Hoyer, who claims he’s already locked up a majority of his caucus for the Thursday vote, would just as soon run the clock out and minimize the implications of the race. The less attention it gets, and the less blood left on the floor, the more unified Dems are going into the new Congress; that’s common sense.

But I think there is something else at play. By engaging Murtha, Hoyer elevates the race in the media and thus raises the stakes for Pelosi. An intra-party contest that stays on the national news and on the front page of the paper is one where the new Speaker better come out with a win. By not returning Murtha’s fire, Hoyer seeks to avert Pelosi’s hand from being forced. Can he ride out the next two days?