But in the Arizona Republic interview, Carusone was more circumspect, noting that the Congresswoman is not yet halfway though the stage during which brain-injury victims make most of their progress. “We’d love to know today what her life will be, what her quality of life will be, which will determine whether she’ll be able to run for office and all sorts of other things involving her life,” Carusone said. “But we just don’t know yet.”
Staffers on Capitol Hill noted that the tone of uncertainty is a far cry from only a few months ago, when the tenor from Giffords’ camp was more optimistic and she was even being floated as a top-tier candidate for Arizona’s open Senate seat.
And Carusone’s analysis of her boss’s physical condition was a surprise to Congressional followers who recalled the daily briefings from Giffords’ team of physicians in the first few weeks after the January shooting.
The fresh admission that Giffords is far from ready to resume her duties — and, in fact, might never be — seems to have granted those who held their tongues permission to speak openly about the politics surrounding her Congressional seat. Giffords is well-liked in her district and in Washington circles, and many thought it unseemly to raise the possibility that her recovery would be anything less than complete.
“These conversations can be awkward,” Diaz said. “But it’s been awkward to not have these conversations. It might be time to start thinking about Plan B … Democrats can’t be behind the eight ball.”
Still, others held out hope for a best-case scenario.
“I don’t think at this stage, this far out from when she would have to file, no one can really know what her political future looks like,” a Democratic strategist said. “At this point, I think they’re just trying to keep the public informed.”
The strategist noted that Giffords’ office was up and running just days after the Tucson incident and has remained active ever since. Just last week, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a Giffords confidant, reintroduced legislation he worked on with the Congresswoman last year to boost the military’s use of renewable energies. Giffords, of course, did not appear at the press conference alongside Udall, a Tucson native, but the Coloradan nevertheless made her presence felt.
“This is an issue that’s near and dear to Gabby … I know she’s eager to continue this important work,” Udall said, noting the day of the press conference coincidentally fell on Giffords’ 41st birthday.
“I think this is particularly monumental that we introduce this bill today,” he said.
Other colleagues, too, have acted on Giffords’ behalf. Seeking to keep Giffords’ options open by keeping her campaign coffers flush, Udall and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) held separate fundraisers for her last month.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., walks on Broadway after a Future Forum with young entrepreneurs in the Flatiron District of New York City, April 16, 2015. Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., also attended.