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While I interview more than a hundred candidates each election cycle, I donít evaluate them the way the average politically interested observer does. I donít care about their ideology or their views on issues ó except to the extent that their views make it easier or harder for them to get elected.
Having a scenario for victory isnít enough to impress me either. Every candidate has one. I donít think anyone has ever come in for an interview and acknowledged that he probably canít win.
Every candidate has strengths and weaknesses. But some candidates are more articulate, personable, down-to-earth and politically savvy than others. And for whatever reason, some candidates are easier to like.
My list of the more interesting, likable candidates so far this cycle includes Republicans Kirk Adams of Arizona, Chauncey Goss of Florida, David Valadao and Gary DeLong of California, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, all running for the House. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats John Delaney of Maryland, Denny Heck of Washington, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joaquin Castro of Texas are on the list. Heitkamp is running for the Senate, while the others are running for the House.
Of course, candidate quality is only one factor in handicapping a race. District-level fundamentals and cycle-specific factors, after all, often trump the individual qualities of candidates.
But all of the candidates mentioned here have a chance of winning. Some are even solid favorites (or better).
Adams is in a tough GOP primary against former Rep. Matt Salmon. The winner of the primary will serve in the next Congress.
A businessman who served only one term in the Arizona House before taking on, and defeating, his partyís sitting Speaker, Adams was recruited into the Congressional race by outgoing Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). He is a conservative who understands the legislative process and the role of leadership and who believes that voters want Congress to address important issues, not merely posture about them.
Goss is the son of a former Congressman and CIA director. A former staffer at the Office of Management and Budget and on the House Budget Committee, Goss eventually opened up a consulting firm that focused on fiscal policy. He is an analyst and a policy wonk, not a bomb-thrower.
A dairy farmer from Californiaís Central Valley, Valadao is a freshman in the state Assembly. Heís personable and likable, confident without being cocky. When asked about his approach, he said: ďIím happy to work with Democrats. After all, they have to represent their districts just as I have to represent mine.Ē