As anyone who has been even remotely conscious the last few weeks knows, the Democrats recently lost control of the House, making Heath Shuler's quest to become Speaker impossible (as if it was not before). Shuler, who appears to be learning how to stay in the news, now says he might run against Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader of the House.
So how likely is it that Shuler will be elected to this position? About as likely as it is that Mark Sanford was really hiking the Appalachian trail. As we noted before, Shuler is still very green and leadership positions generally go to people who have earned their stripes in Washington. Josh Purdy, one of our fine GAs in the Public Policy Institute looked up every Minority Leader beginning in 1899 and calculated how long they were in Congress before becoming Minority Leader.
As you can see above, Shuler wouldn't be the greenest member to be elected Minority Leader, but he'd be darn close. The average Minority Leader spent 20 years in Congress before ascending to the leadership. Only James Richardson, a guy who died the year World War I began, was in Congress fewer years before becoming minority leader.
If this is so improbable, then why is he going public saying that he's going to run against Pelosi? My guess is that Shuler is smart enough to know that he has no chance to win, but he's also smart enough to know that the only way for a junior member of Congress to gain power is to "go outside," and use the media to raise his profile. In the past few days speculation about whether Shuler might challenge Pelosi for Minority Leader has been covered in the NY Times, Roll Call, the Huffington Post, and a bunch of other outlets. That's a lot of coverage for most members of Congress--particularly a junior member of a minority party from a relatively small district in the mountains of North Carolina.