11/05/2010 02:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

James Clyburn, Steny Hoyer May Face Off For House Minority Whip

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Nancy Pelosi's second in command, will not challenge Pelosi for the House minority leader job but is considering a bid for minority whip.

"Hoyer has received a lot of support from members over the past several days urging him to stay as a part of leadership. He'll spend the next couple of days talking to members and getting their thoughts on him being minority whip," Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant told HuffPost.

If he decides to run, he'll face a challenge from the current number-three Democrat, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, who is the majority whip. Clyburn declared his intention to run for the number two spot in a letter to Democratic colleagues Friday.

The contest sets up an ideological battle over the direction of the House caucus, pitting the liberal Clyburn against the more conservative-leaning Hoyer. Hoyer is a popular dealmaker in the House, with broad support even among colleagues more progressive than he is, which should give Hoyer a shot at beating Clyburn. Much could depend on the endorsement of Nancy Pelosi.

The race, though, would appear to be Clyburn's to lose, given the political alignment of a House that has lost a host of conservative Democrats, if it is run along ideological lines. But the race is likely to blur such distinctions, as Hoyer is a strong fundraiser and came to the assist of many Democrats in tight races, help that won't be forgotten. He contributed to or raised money for 218 Democratic incumbents and candidates and gave the the maximum allowable contribution to 66 incumbents and challengers through his leadership PAC and Hoyer for Congress, giving more than $1.57 million, more than any other Democrat. (Pelosi raised more for the party, but hers went directly to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.) Clyburn, meanwhile, donated to 80 Democratic members and candidates.

In 2006, Hoyer was challenged by the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who had Pelosi's support. Hoyer won easily, winning a majority of each caucus, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told The Hill that she will back Clyburn. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is supporting Hoyer, according to an aide to Welch, making him the second progressive to support the Maryland Democrat.