A retiring Democrat suggested on Monday that Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) or Ron Kind (D-Wis.) would make good challengers to outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) said that Hoyer, the outgoing House majority leader, or Kind (who he termed the "single best choice") would make good challengers to Pelosi, who is seeking to continue to lead Democrats by running for the position of minority leader in the next Congress.
"You know, I think actually Steny would be a good choice. I think Ron Kind would be the single best choice I could make," Baird said on MSNBC. "That probably jinxes it with the Speaker, but I think Ron Kind is that kind of person — a very bright, very articulate centrist who listens to all sides, takes policy very seriously, and could speak to both sides."
A handful of centrist Democrats have said that they would not vote to reelect Pelosi as leader of their party in the House. But only one candidate, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), has floated the possibility of a challenge to Pelosi, and Shuler's acknowledged that he's unlikely to beat the outgoing Speaker.
Hoyer is seen as an emissary to House centrists, who were his base of support when he ran against Pelosi for the position of Democratic leader earlier this decade. A key Republican, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said on Monday that he's the GOP's point of contact within the Democratic leadership.
But after Pelosi brokered a deal late last week to make House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) her No. 3, a move that makes Hoyer without challenge for the second-ranking job in the next Congress, it would be difficult to imagine a situation where the Maryland Democrat would turn around and challenge Pelosi.
A Democrat who's returning for his eighth term in the House, Kind is seen as a more centrist lawmaker, though he's not listed as a member of the Blue Dog Coalition (as Shuler is). Kind is a vice chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, but hasn't shown any inclination to challenge Pelosi.
Baird tried to explain why no major Democrat has stepped forward to try to beat Pelosi.
"I think they're counting votes and they're going to say, 'If I'm going to lose, what's the point of coming out and saying I'm going to disagree with our minority leader, who at that point can enact consequences?'" he said. "That's part of the problem. You know, we need people in our leadership position who do not mind being disagreed with and who, in fact, invite that. We haven't had that for a while. I wish we would."
Updated 12:55 p.m.