One of Washington’s favorite parlor games is guessing the next leader(s) of the Congressional caucuses. (No one mistakes Washington for the coolest place in the world, ok?) And no caucus has as muddled a succession line as House Democrats with a trio of 70-something leaders and a collection of unproven lieutenants waiting in the wings.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has a message for those thinking about trying to replace her: Not my problem.

Pelosi, always reticent to talk about her own future, does not plan on anointing a successor. She said that Democrats who want to succeed her should not expect a coronation, suggesting that it would be up to them to make their case to colleagues. “You have to strike a balance between developing the talent but also not dictating the outcome. In other words, that has to bubble up when the time comes,” she told The Washington Post during an interview last week.

Pelosi, who turns 75 in March, has considered stepping down before, first after the disastrous 2010 midterm elections stripped the speaker’s gavel from her and then again after a successful 2012 campaign added seats to her ranks but still left Democrats in the minority.

During the run-up to these midterm elections, however, there was no doubt she would stick around. In a pair of interviews last week she declined any talk about when she will retire, but suggested that it’s time for the next generation of potential leaders to start preparing themselves and doing more heavy lifting, including when it comes to fundraising and political travel.

Behind Pelosi are Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who is 75, and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who at 74 has joked that he is the “baby” in the leadership team. This trio have held the top three spots in leadership for nine years, with Pelosi and Hoyer in the top spots for a dozen years.

There are many ambitious lawmakers who see themselves as potential heirs, but at the moment not a single one has emerged with the combination of political and policy chops. Those that show a flair for fundraising, for example, tend to have weak legislative backgrounds.  Those that demonstrate policy wonk instincts tend to show little interest in traveling all over the country to raise money and campaign for Democrats.

It’s become a running joke among some Democratic chiefs of staff and former senior staff, who play the guessing game. “We need someone like [insert name of lawmaker]," the saying goes, "but not actually [insert same lawmaker]”.

Pelosi told a dark joke last Wednesday that should serve as a prod to junior Democrats. She said that she lives by the “if I get hit by a truck” theory, from everything to making sure her house is clean so that if people come to her home after her death they’ll find a nicely kept place, to always being prepared for any outcome.

At the moment, if Pelosi were to suddenly disappear from politics, Hoyer is best positioned to succeed her because he has been the understudy for so long and because he does the political travel that not many other Democrats do.

Yet Pelosi's liberal allies in the caucus have never trusted Hoyer and would consider alternatives before accepting him. There’s now a bulging crop of junior lawmakers, including several dozen elected in 2012, who have hinted that when the time comes, all three 70-somethings should step aside and let a new generation should take charge.

For the moment, however, there’s no mechanism for those Democrats to prove themselves. In the minority, there’s no real legislative maneuvering, even for those who are ranking members at committees. No one has challenged anyone in leadership, and there are no imminent races for junior leadership posts.

Perhaps the next interesting race would start when Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) is term limited at the No. 4 spot, as chairman of the caucus. A heavily contested race for that post might serve as the proxy fight for who is truly capable of doing the heavy lifting on policy and politics, wooing colleagues for their support in a manner that is going to be required to eventually win the race to succeed Pelosi.

That’s what Pelosi did in the late 1990s and early 2000s, fighting Hoyer in a long leadership race for a lower post. She bested him and became the clear heir apparent to succeed Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), which she did in 2003.

The race for caucus chairman will take place in November 2016, at which point Becerra will face an up-or-out decision on whether to challenge one of the 70-somethings. And this scenario assumes Pelosi stays on into the latter part of this decade as leader and whoever wins caucus chairman establishes himself or herself as the heir apparent, waiting until perhaps 2019 to take over. Can this caucus keep going with this trio in charge, for that long?

Pelosi won’t say when she's leaving but did admit that she longs for the day when she can talk to her wealthy liberal friends without asking them for checks, and that she thinks about retirement every time she boards a plane in San Francisco to come all the way back to Washington.

“One thing about California,” she said of representing the Golden State, “nobody gets Potomac Fever.”