At least a handful of House Republicans defeated in November are mulling 2008 comebacks, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is prepared to back any former Member who gives the GOP its best chance of reclaiming seats the Democrats won last year.
Of those former Representatives who either have announced or are known to be contemplating a run in 2008, Jeb Bradley (N.H.), Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Rob Simmons (Conn.) and Mike Sodrel (Ind.) immediately would be welcomed by the NRCC. Others, such as Jim Ryun (Kan.), are not necessarily the first choice of the committee.
“It’s widely viewed that [Bradley, Fitzpatrick, Simmons and Sodrel] would make excellent candidates again this cycle,” a Republican strategist familiar with the NRCC’s thinking said Tuesday. “Ryun falls into the question mark category.”
Ryun, who officially has announced and filed to run for his old 2nd district seat in 2008, said he had no idea why the NRCC might be lukewarm on his candidacy but added that he plans to discuss his campaign with the committee in the next few days. The Kansas Republican, who already is raising money, said he had heard the NRCC was supportive of his comeback bid.
Ryun said he is rebuilding his campaign organization from the ground up, though he declined to say exactly what was wrong with it when he lost in November to now-Rep. Nancy Boyda (D) by about 7,600 votes. Ryun attributed his defeat to the national political environment, in addition to what he described as flip-flopping by Boyda on issues such as the Iraq War and illegal immigration.
“I feel we can do it this time. We have a tremendous amount of support,” Ryun said.
Ryun’s Topeka-based district gave President Bush a 20-point victory over Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential election. But Ryun may not be the only Republican eyeing that seat: Kansas state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins told Kansas reporters recently that she also is contemplating a run there.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut, Simmons, who lost by fewer than 100 votes to now-Rep. Joe Courtney (D), sounded very much like an individual who wants to run again. He has kept his campaign office open and has busied himself writing newspaper opinion pieces and holding debt-reduction fundraisers.
Simmons expects to make a decision on a 2008 run in the next few months.
One of Simmons’ considerations is how strong a party apparatus he’ll have to back him should he run in 2008 — Connecticut Republicans are powerless save for the governor’s office and the House seat held by Rep. Christopher Shays, a perennial Democratic target who is the only GOP House Member in New England.
Simmons has been working behind the scenes since November to help rebuild the state GOP in an effort to lay the foundation for his party’s — and possibly his own — resurgence. But he also pointed to a political atmosphere that saw 2nd district voters splitting along party lines despite the fact that he had personal favorability ratings in excess of 50 percent.
“As a candidate, I have to ask myself to what extent might that situation change in the next year and a half,” Simmons said. “These are some of the considerations that are taking place.”