Rep. Chris Van Hollen's likely run for Senate further scrambles what was already set to be a muddled field of candidates to succeed the House's top Democratic leaders.
Van Hollen, Democratic insiders say, is viewed as either the preferred successor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or, at minimum, a member of the top tier of the Democratic bench. With Van Hollen aides confirming this week that he's inclined to jump into the race next year to succeed Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the question of which members are likeliest to succeed Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is even less clear.
Democrats were hesitant to go on the record to address the hypothetical fallout of an as-yet-unofficial decision—especially since Van Hollen could explore a Senate bid and still decide to remain in the House—but conversations with multiple top Democratic aides made it clear that many in the caucus have very different ideas of where the invisible horse race stands.
For starters, Van Hollen's own rank in the hierarchy draws different reactions within the caucus.
"It has always been well-known in the caucus that Mr. Van Hollen is Leader Pelosi's No. 1 choice to succeed her," said an aide for another leadership hopeful. Others, however, acknowledged Van Hollen's well-regarded status, but cautioned the folly in trying to read the mind of Pelosi, who is well-known for keeping close counsel.