(CNN) - Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, worked the phones all weekend, talking to Democratic lawmakers to try to gather support in their competition for the number two spot in the new House minority. Sources close to each insist to CNN their candidate will prevail.
“We will win,” said a senior Democratic source in the Hoyer camp, declining to speak on the record in order to talk about the internal process. “He [Hoyer] is racking up the votes. He knows how to do this because he has done this before,” said the source, referring to a bitter contest for House majority leader he ended up easily winning in 2006 against the late John Murtha.
A source close to Clyburn voiced similar confidence about his effort to be House minority whip, saying “he will lock up the votes.”
Because of Pelosi’s decision to run for House minority leader, one member of the current Democratic leadership will be squeezed out. Hoyer is currently the House majority leader, and Clyburn is the House majority whip.
Clyburn himself said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that members of the Democratic caucus are telling him “they are very satisfied with the way that I have been conducting myself as whip. When I talk to those people, our constituents out there, they say to me that I was a very effective spokesperson for our party and for the policies we laid out.”
Clyburn used his appearance on “Face the Nation” to lobby for the position, and included a transcript of the appearance in a letter to Democratic House members.
Hoyer’s camp says he is having success convincing Democratic lawmakers that he is more of a uniting force, something that is critical in the new Democratic leadership.
Hoyer backers also downplay the idea that Hoyer’s appeal is narrower than Clyburn’s, since Hoyer is known as a moderate in a caucus that will be now dominated by liberals after many moderate Democrats were defeated in the midterm elections.
To back up the assertion that Hoyer has broad Democratic appeal, those close to him are sending around a list of Democratic lawmakers who have publicly backed him, including progressives like Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, Rep. Lois Capps, D-California, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York.
“There is no evidence Hoyer has a progressive problem,” said the senior Democratic source in the Hoyer camp.
“Hoyer can also bring the moderates’ political perspective to the table,” said the source, who said that’s key given that Nancy Pelosi – widely considered more liberal - is expected to be in the top spot in the House.
Thirty Democratic House members sent a letter supporting Hoyer to the rest of the caucus Sunday.
“The first step in standing up for the middle-class and winning back the House majority is electing a strong leadership team to unify our Caucus,” the letter says. “Majority Leader Hoyer has been an essential part of our Caucus’s leadership… and we need his leadership in the days ahead.”
Sources close to Clyburn claimed the same appeal, sending a list of endorsements he has won, from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, to Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-California, to Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York, and they’re talking up the fact that he comes from a “red state.”
“He has worked in South Carolina his whole life with Republicans and moderates,” said a Clyburn source.
Despite the feverish effort to find votes for the number two House Democratic spot, sources close to both Hoyer and Clyburn insist there is no animosity between the two men, who have been friends for decades.
In fact the two talked by phone this weekend, even as they made calls trying to convince rank and file Democrats not to support the other.
Some Democratic sources say they believe that in the end, both Hoyer and Clyburn will be part of the leadership, with one taking the number three slot of Democratic caucus chairman.
“They're both going to be at the table, I'm absolutely convinced,” hinted Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
Some Democratic sources – even those close to both Hoyer and Clyburn - also say there is some talk about working out a deal to avoid a divisive vote, which is slated to take place in two weeks when Congress returns for a lame-duck session.
Who would get the higher-ranking slot would likely depend on privately proving he has the most votes.
In an illustration of how hard each side is trying to avoid a bitter fight, a source close to one of the men joked that perhaps they could have a “dance off.”
- CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report