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Ramstad Could Decide to Stay

Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) is seriously reconsidering his previously announced decision to retire in 2008 and could reverse course and run for re-election, according to Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill familiar with his thinking.

Ramstad announced in mid- September that he would not seek a 10th term in the House. There were reports soon after his announcement that Republican leaders had leaned on him to reconsider.

At the time, Ramstad lamented that he was among a “dying breed” of political moderates in the House.

But on Tuesday, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) said Ramstad’s role as one of the “bridge players” — someone who has the ability to work with Members on both sides of the aisle — could be one of the reasons why he is now reconsidering.

“I think he’s thinking about that,” Cole said.

Cole said he has talked to Ramstad, but he doesn’t know what he will ultimately do.

“I hope he is [thinking about running again],” Cole said. “I would be delighted if he did.”

Calls to Ramstad’s office seeking comment for this story Tuesday were not returned.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who is one of Ramstad’s closest friends in the House, said on Tuesday that Ramstad is indeed having second thoughts about his decision to leave the House. Ramstad and Kennedy have been champions of mental health parity legislation and the Rhode Island Democrat said the possibility that Congress could pass the legislation next year was weighing on Ramstad.

“It’s very much impacting his decision,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he felt that Ramstad would feel more comfortable leaving if leadership on both sides of the Capitol would agree to pass the mental health bill through both chambers early in the new year.

Kennedy also asserted that Ramstad has in some regards become a bargaining piece in the debate over passage of the mental health parity bill, citing the fact that Ramstad’s district is expected to be a hotly contested battleground if he sticks to his retirement decision.

“Democrats know that his seat would be in play,” Kennedy said. “He’s a bargaining chip right now. ... If Democrats want to pick up a seat, all they need to say very frankly and clearly is ‘we’re going to make this happen.’”

Meanwhile, speculation has swirled that Ramstad might be reconsidering his retirement in light of Rep. Jim McCrery’s (R-La.) recent decision to retire. McCrery’s departure creates an opening for the top Republican slot on the Ways and Means Committee, where Ramstad is a senior member.

However, sources familiar with Ramstad’s thinking said he was reconsidering his retirement well before McCrery made his announcement.

A race for the top GOP slot on Ways and Means already is under way between Reps. Wally Herger (Calif.) and Dave Camp (Mich.) and observers do not see Ramstad as likely to enter the contest if he reverses course. The fact that he comes from a swing district also would make a run for the Ways and Means position difficult, sources said.

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