Democrats are deeply entrenched in the minority, and that appears unlikely to change in the near future. Meanwhile, many of the caucus's top figures, both at the leadership and committee levels, have held their posts for years, limiting upward mobility for younger members. That has sparked debate over whether to institute term limits for committee leaders. There's also been plenty of jostling to determine who's in line to succeed the party's current crop of House leadership.
"We have one of the most talented classes of recent years in Congress," said Rep. Joyce Beatty. "I don't think it's unusual for talented people to think about leadership."
The question is whether the sophomores will decide the best leadership opportunities lie outside the caucus. For now, most aren't calling it a serious concern. "A lot of us will be around for a while," said Rep. Ami Bera. "For those folks that move over to the Senate, we're going to maintain those friendships."
Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who herself considered a Senate bid before deciding Duckworth had the better shot, said the opportunity-seeking isn't unique to her class. "We're all type-A personalities," she said. "We're very driven. "¦ If we have various members who move on to bigger and better things, we will find other people to come in who will be great and do great things for the country."
Some see the movement as simply a reflection of the class's size. "It's a very big class, so obviously there's going be attrition," said Rep. Lois Frankel. "People are going to go onto other things."
And many say there are plenty of roles in the House for those looking to make a mark. "There will be some migration, there will be turnover—it's the natural churn of things," said Rep. Denny Heck. "But people have settled in, and they've migrated toward roles and responsibilities. There is plenty to do around here. "¦ At the point at which senior leadership transitions, you're going to see this class—they're going to be ready to take over some of the secondary leadership jobs and chairmanships if we get the majority back."
Bigger opportunities aren't the only threat to retention. The 2012 class was first elected on a ticket with President Obama, and they weren't spared Democrats' traditional midterm doldrums the following cycle. Seven members lost their seats in 2014, and another left to run a failed campaign for local office. Between the campaign defeats and outside opportunities, at least 11 of the original 47 nonincumbents who won in 2012 won't be around after the end of their second term.
Many more represent tough districts, and for a few, their road to reelection got even tougher this month. Five sophomores voted to give President Obama Trade Promotion Authority, which has provoked intense backlash from labor unions and liberals, who have threatened primary challenges against pro-TPA members.