Eyes on Heath Shuler

We now know that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is running for Minority Leader next year.

We now know that her chief lieutenant, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) won't challenge Pelosi and will run for Minority Whip.

But what will Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) do?

After all, Shuler proclaimed during a debate last month that he would couldn't back Pelosi if she were to again seek a leadership position. Shuler then said he could even challenge Pelosi.

"If there is no viable alternative (to Pelosi), I will be running for Speaker of the House," Shuler declared.

One thing's for sure: Pelosi won't be speaker after the Democrats decimation at the polls last week. But the California Democrat shocked many of her colleagues when she signaled last Friday she intended to remain as the Democrats top House figure, albeit in the minority.

So, did Shuler mean he would only run for Speaker if Democrats held the majority and Pelosi remained in the mix? He seemed to answer that when he told Roll Call last week after the Democrats' defeat that he still would challenge Pelosi if she ran for minority leader.

But since Friday, when Pelosi declared her intention to seek the minority leader job, Shuler's remained mum.

If he were to run, Shuler could certainly provide moderate and conservative Democrats a "viable alternative" to Pelosi. He's a key player in the Blue Dog Caucus, the bloc of fiscally-conscious House Democrats. He's pro Second Amendment and voted against the health care reform bill.

On Monday, FOX obtained the draft of a letter that some defeated House Democrats were circulating and planned to send to Pelosi in an effort to implore her to stay out of leadership next year.

Two years ago, House Republicans re-elected Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Minority Leader after the Republicans stumbled badly at the polls. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) lodged what proved to be token opposition as Boehner handily won that leadership contest.