WASHINGTON – Rep. Dick Gephardt will run for the position of speaker of the House if Democrats win control of the House in Tuesday's midterm elections, aides said Friday.
Whether he will continue to work as minority leader if Republicans maintain control of the chamber is less certain.
"Mr. Gephardt has worked toward winning a majority in the House for eight years," said Erik Smith, a spokesman. "When we win the majority, he intends to run for speaker. Any decisions other than that will be made by Mr. Gephardt, his wife and family after Election Day."
Smith said he just doesn't know if the minority leader will continue in his current position if Democrats remain in the minority.
Gephardt and his wife "will make the decision after the election," Smith said. "Anyone who claims to have advance knowledge of that decision is wrong."
Democrats need to win 218 seats in order to topple Republicans from the majority role they have held since 1994, when Gephardt was majority leader. They currently have 208. One independent votes with Democrats and three vacant seats currently in the House were held by Democrats.
Gephardt is expected by many to run for president in 2004 regardless of the outcome of Tusesday's election. He has not indicated what he would do about a future run, but some suggest that if leaves he would be in a better position to run for president since he won't be held responsible for the deadlock that is likely to arise out of the closely-split 108th Congress.
"Look at how close Congress is going to be," said consultant Jim Duffy. "No one has a working majority. It will be like herding cats."
Joe Lockhart, who was press secretary in the Clinton White House, says he sees how Gephardt could "be an effective minority leader and challenge the president, but it's virtually impossible to be an effective speaker and challenge an opposing party's president."
Both House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi of California and Texas Rep. Martin Frost, head of the House Democratic Caucus, are keeping close tabs on Gephardt's moves. Both would like to move up in the leadership if Gephardt scatters.
Traditionally, "reorganization" votes are scheduled in the House shortly after the elections. That's when leadership races are held. Even if Gephardt doesn't make the announcement that he will step down as minority leader, he may still face a challenge from underlings seeking to project authority and boldness.
If Democrats do win the House, Gephardt could also accept the speakership, and a few months later annouce that he will step down to run for the presidency. Exercising that option would allow him to avoid the difficulty of being speaker while challenging the opposing party's president, and at the same time give him the chance to begin his campaign from a position of authority.
Fox News' Jim Mills and the Associated Press contributed to this report.