Pelosi Lays Out Her Cards With Murtha Bet

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It's a high-testosterone move for the first female speaker-elect. Yep, "Women have cojones, too!" could be the subtext under the headline, "Pelosi Endorses Murtha for Leader." Why? Murtha's medal-decorated military past enthuses the cockles of veterans and service persons alike. The Pennsylvania conservative Democrat's pro-gun, anti-choice voting record also helps draw centrist Republicans into the Democrats' camp, while wooing progressives with his vocal opposition to the war in Iraq.

But there's a major potential hitch. The House leadership votes that take place this Thursday on the Hill are conducted in secret. Members can tell Murtha or current Minority Whip and would-be Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland that they are on either man's team. Then they can go and vote secretly however they choose. Hoyer has already locked up the support of the Blue Dog (or socially and economically conservative) Democrats, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Hispanic Caucus.

Hill scuttlebutt holds that on a personal basis Pelosi is much closer to Murtha, although her relationship with centrist Democrat Hoyer dates back several decades to their tenures as congressional pages.

However, if Hoyer pulls off a victory, as some predict he may do Thursday, Pelosi begins her historic speakership mopping up an awfully messy faux pas. Then again, wasn't she the one who said last week that it takes a woman to clean House?