1) If Murtha is smart, then his campaign should include a promise that he will immediately ask the House Ethics Committee to investigate him. Murtha’s ethical issues are disturbing but not overwhelming: but this only as far as we know now. The Democrats absolutely cannot let the GOP be the ones to pick up the rock and be shocked, shocked that bugs are crawling around there. That is too precious a gift to hand to the Republicans. Besides, it comports with the Democratic meme: we’re not saying that we are perfect–we are saying that we are responsible.
Murtha’s tack should be to put his fate in the hands of the Ethics Committee, and if it believes that he significantly violated House rules, he will step down.
2) Greg Sargent notes that 9 prospective Dem committee chairs have endorsed Hoyer. That’s hardly a surprise: whom you back in this race depends upon how strong a Speaker you want Pelosi to be. Committee chairs obviously want a somewhat weaker Speaker.
But here’s an interesting twist: who is notably missing on that list? Intelligence Committee ranking member Jane Harman. Maybe this is a gambit to save her job, which is in jeopardy. If she winds up backing Murtha and he wins, it will be harder for Pelosi to sack her.
3) Jim Moran of Virginia already claims that Murtha has the votes. He’s made a lot of claims over the last 24 hours, as well as over the last few years. I would be wary of taking it too seriously. So does Jerome Armstrong, whom I take more seriously.
I lean toward Murtha, despite his ethical issues, because I think that a strong Speaker is critical, especially for the next two years. We need to keep message discipline, and as Steve and Mark have pointed out, we need to keep policy discipline as well. The Speaker needs to be able to enforce her will.
It’s going to be an interesting 48 hours.
UPDATE: I should mention that Ezra made the same point about this race basically being about how one feels about a strong Speakership in the upcoming Congress, although he doesn’t take sides in that dispute.