Heavens to Murtha-troid...What's Up? (Update) genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Update:

Nancy Pelosi had announced that Congressman John Murtha has suspended his bid to become the majority leader in the event that the Democrats win control of the House. The announcement leaves open the possibility that Murtha will seek the position but it removes the issue from the front burner where it has created an unwanted distraction for the Party.

Despite this positive development, it once again raises the question of whether the Democrats can present a unified Party with a consistent message that is not vulnerable to further examples of infighting and dissention. The fact that this incident took place seems to indicate that the Party leadership has yet to establish a firm grip on its membership in advance of the November election. If the Democrats aren't careful, the Republicans may be able to undo their long string of negatives and avert what looks like an inevitable loss of control in the House of Representatives.

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Original Posting:

Congressman John Murtha announced this afternoon that if the Democrats were to take control of the House of Representatives in November, he would seek the position of majority leader. Read the full article here.

"If we prevail as I hope and know we will, and return to the majority this next Congress, I have decided to run for the open seat of the majority leader," Murtha said in a letter to his Democratic colleagues.

If the Democrats take control of the House in November, Pelosi likely would become speaker, leaving the majority leader position open.

Current minority whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Friday that he too intends to seek the leadership job should the Democrats win control of the House.

I've listened to numerous comments of surprise about the Murtha announcement although I haven't heard an analysis that fully explains the motivations behind the move. Paul Begala explained that Murtha's recent outspoken comments on Iraq have made him a darling of the left despite the fact that his voting record in the House is generally conservative. Begala speculated that Murtha may think that positions him to be a unifying figure who could garner broad support.

My first question was who could possibly benefit from Murtha announcing his interest in being majority leader such that they would support this unexpected move. At a point in time when Democrats have seemingly kept internal conflict to a minimum, this seems like an unusual turn of events that seems to draw negative attention to the Party. Perhaps it's simply more of what Democrats do...but I have a feeling there's more to this situation. I've yet to lock in on any plausible hidden strategy.

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 1:18 PM
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