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Are GOP Freshmen Ready to Rumble in 2012?

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GOP freshman Rep. Tom Marino is worth watching because he was elected even though two mid-October surveys found his unfavorable rating far higher than his favorable score.

Redistricting may ultimately save some Republican House freshmen who were elected through no fault of their own. But that isnt stopping GOP insiders from worrying whether freshmen who were swept up on the beach by the strong November tide understand why they won and what they need to do to win re-election.

Republican concern is well-warranted. Some Democrats who won in 2006 and 2008 misinterpreted their victories and paid the price. Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) thought she won in 2006 because of the quality of her campaign. She insisted on running the same campaign two years later and lost.

And Rep. Carol Shea Porter (D-N.H.), who won in 2006 and 2008 because of Granite State anger at George W. Bush, was swept out last year after compiling a liberal activist record that didnt fit her district.

Among those Republican freshmen worth watching because of the way they won in November are Rep. Tom Marino, who was elected even though two mid-October surveys found his unfavorable rating far higher than his favorable score, and Rep. Jim Renacci, whose business dealings were savaged in Democratic TV spots and who had huge negatives by the time November arrived.

Marino represents a very Republican Pennsylvania district that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried by 9 points, while McCain carried Renaccis northeast Ohio district by only 2 points.

Two former Members who won back their old seats, Reps. Charles Bass (N.H.) and Tim Walberg (Mich.), also ended their campaigns with low favorable numbers.  Bass narrowly won an open seat, while Walberg defeated the Democrat who had defeated him in 2008.

Democratic strategists are upbeat about their chances of putting the House into play this cycle, but its simply too early to say whether they will be able to do so. But if they do, it will likely be because more than a few Republicans didnt understand that the GOP nominees were irrelevant to many voters in 2010.

Among the GOP freshmen who may not understand why they won or what they need to do to win in a very different political environment are Reps. Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.), both of whom won in impressive upsets. Neither Republican appears to be off to a strong fundraising start.

Ellmers woke up on third base and thought she hit a triple, one Republican said about the freshman who hasnt done enough on the Hill and organizationally to demonstrate that she understands voters were casting ballots against Rep. Bob Etheridge (D), not for her.

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