WASHINGTON -- No sooner did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announce her bid to be House Minority Leader, then House Majority Whip James Clyburn announced he would run for Minority Whip, sparking a Democratic leadership battle between himself and Steny Hoyer who, as Majority Leader under Pelosi, was next in line for the position.
The contest has the potential to split the caucus, pitting the liberal Clyburn and other African American Democrats such as Rep. Barbara Lee, against the moderate Hoyer, a favorite among Blue Dogs and more conservative white Southern Democrats. But Clyburn was quick to point out on "Face The Nation" Sunday, that people may be "making some assumptions because of the way that I look." And Hoyer has a broad base of support among more progressive members.
One thing in Hoyer's favor: He has campaigned for and donated money to more struggling candidates than any Democrat in Congress, and members are not likely to forget his generosity, especially in such a close election year.
Looking through Hoyer's FEC filings, HuffPost found that he donated to 127 different candidates this election cycle. While he did help some candidates in safe seats, like his Maryland colleague Donna Edwards, who won with 84 percent of the vote, the vast majority of Hoyers' contributions went to Democratic candidates in tough races like Florida's Alan Grayson, Virginia's Tom Perriello, and Minnesota's Tarryl Clark.
His PAC, Hoyer for Congress, donated to 98 candidates this cycle: 62 of them lost, 28 of them won and eight races are still too close to call. Further, through his leadership PAC, Ameripac, Hoyer gave additional contributions to all but 11 of those races, most of them losing races. Through Ameripac, Hoyer also donated to 16 more winning candidates and 12 more losing candidates, beyond those first 98, as well as to Jim Costa, whose race in California's 20th District remains unresolved. All FEC contributions considered, roughly two thirds of Hoyer's donation recipients will not be on Capitol Hill to help him in his bid for leadership, the fallout of donating heavily to swing districts during a GOP wave.
Hoyer is hurt by the loss of House conservative Democrats in this year's election cycle. The Blue Dog Coalition was particularly hard-hit: only 24 of its 54 members were re-elected and two of its leaders, Reps. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota and Baron Hill of Indiana were casualties of the Republican sweep.
Still, Hoyer has donated and raised millions, which may, in part, explain his strong progressive support.
"This shows Hoyer works tirelessly to elect Members and candidates, and Members know that he'll do the same in 2012, donating money and traveling across the country to help them and our candidates and fighting to put Democrats back in the majority," Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant told HuffPost in an email. "That is one of the reasons why Members are supporting him."
Indeed, many Democratic operatives think he has the edge over Clyburn.
On Sunday, Hoyer allies circulated a letter of endorsement which garnered 30 signatures. And on Monday afternoon spokesman Matt Farrauto told HuffPost that Rep. Brad Sherman of California has indicated his support for Hoyer as well.