Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

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.

GOP observers fret — and Democratic strategists are gleeful — that Buerkle is spending so much time on controversial social issues such as abortion given that the district went for both Barack Obama in 2008 and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.

“She shied away from abortion as a candidate but has been leaning into the issue since she was elected,” commented a Democrat who is licking his chops.

Democrats believe that freshman Rep. Randy Hultgren made as major gaffe by voting for the GOP budget, which could result in a massive budget cut for the Fermi National Accelerator Lab, which is located in his district.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already attacked Hultgren and other Illinois Republicans for their budget votes, and the Republican could easily be negatively affected by redistricting.

Democratic operatives believe freshman Rep. Allen West (R) is also ignoring the political realities by staking out very conservative positions in a part of Florida that is more moderate.

And they are thrilled at the bad press that another Florida freshman, Rep. David Rivera (R), continues to receive. Rivera has been accused of two separate ethical lapses, involving a loan from a company owned by his mother and campaign reimbursements during his time in the state Legislature.

West’s district went for both Kerry and Obama, while Rivera’s went very narrowly for McCain but comfortably for Bush in 2004.

Republican insiders give West somewhat better early marks, noting that he continues to have a strong fundraising operation and seems to understand what he needs to do to win in 2012. Rivera could well face a primary next year.

But if some GOP freshmen still have to show they are preparing for 2012, other just-elected Republicans are off to a fast start, knowledgeable observers said. Illinois rookie Rep. Robert Dold, for example, gets rave reviews from political pros on his side of the aisle.

“Dold won’t need to rely on another wave,” one GOPer said. “He’s really impressing people. He’s smart but also has a high political IQ.”

Allies expect the Financial Services Committee member to show strong early fundraising, and they comment that his votes breaking with most of his GOP colleagues on certain proposed amendments to the continuing resolution to fund the government demonstrate political savvy.

Freshman Rep. Patrick Meehan (Pa.) also gets high marks from GOP insiders for being a “fundraising machine, understanding his district and picking the right amendments [to the CR] to separate himself from his party.”

With redistricting delaying the start of most 2012 House races, candidate prospects are uncertain. But that doesn’t mean some Republicans aren’t already whetting the appetites of Democratic strategists. Even now, the wheat is separating from the chaff.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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