With Ryan leaving, Democrats have their own leadership battle to contend with

With Speaker Paul Ryan retiring at the end of his term, there has been much speculation about who might succeed him.  Reps. McCarthy and Scalise – the number-two and three ranked Republicans in the House – appear to be headed for a confrontation that could roil Republicans, especially if they lose control of the House.

But there is also great uncertainty about the future of the current Democratic leadership.  If the Democrats win in November, it is likely that 78-year-old Nancy Pelosi will once again become speaker.  Her longtime deputy, Steny Hoyer, would almost certainly move up to majority leader.

But what happens if Democrats fail to upend the Republican House majority?  Many observers predict that the long simmering frustration of younger members with the septuagenarian leadership in the House would boil over, and wholesale changes at the top would occur.

Even if the Democrats win, there may be a battle to replace the 78-year-old Hoyer, who has gained a reputation as a deal-maker with Republicans and Dems alike.  Many younger, more radical members of the Democratic caucus might take the opportunity to challenge most of the leadership, and given the growing number of Sanders-Warren acolytes winning elections, the current Democratic leadership may indeed be in trouble.

The Hill:

"If you had asked me five years ago, 'God forbid, if Nancy got hit by a bus, what would happen?'  I'd say to you Steny steps right in and wins.  There's just no question.  Everyone thinks he's earned it, they like him – no one could gainsay that," said one veteran Democrat, speaking anonymously on the sensitive topic.  "The problem is with time has come [the thought], 'Now maybe we need them all to kind of [move on].'"

"It's not about generation change.  It's longevity in office.  Could we possibly benefit from some fresh ideas?" the lawmaker added.  "There are a lot of people – I put myself in their numbers – who are pretty frustrated at the lack of opportunity to move up.  So I don't think it's as sure a thing as it once was, with Steny.  Not because of any antipathy to him personally.  But because he's older than Nancy."

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the former head of the House Democratic Caucus, delivered a similar message.  Larson praised Hoyer as "the loyal lieutenant … who's maybe our best spokesman on the floor."

"But," he quickly added, "there is a generational fervor that's going on within our caucus and outside of here, and that outside game will have a lot of influence."

"Steny will have his fans, and I count myself among them because of what he's been able to do. But ... there is this underpinning of the need for a generational change."

One gauge of the shifting politics is Rep. Bill Pascrell.  The 11-term New Jersey Democrat has long embraced the notion that Hoyer should succeed Pelosi – but not this year.

"While I think Steny is the most articulate person for the Democratic Party, at this time, when I look at all the qualities that I think are necessary in leadership, in terms of going forward, I would pick Joe Crowley," said Pascrell, referring to the 56-year-old New York Democrat.

Change is coming to the Democratic leadership, and everyone knows it.  The only question is when.  All major national Democrats from Hillary Clinton on down are in their late 60s or 70s.  There is an entire generation of Democrats who have won House seats who are prevented from moving up in committees and up the leadership ladder because the older generation refuses to cede power.

Will the geriatrics have a choice?  It all depends on the outcome in November and whether establishment Democrats heed the call of their younger colleagues for fresh blood.