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So You Want to Be a Political Handicapper, Part II

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Stuart Rothenberg writes that Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who rose through the police department’s ranks and is making her first run for office, is one of the most intense candidates he’s ever met.

I didn’t talk with him long enough to get into issues or to see how he will attack Rep. Jeff Denham (R), who will run for re-election in a very competitive district, so it’s impossible for me to handicap this race as completely as I’d like to. But Hernandez’s personal skills and lack of a legislative record make this a race to watch.

Val Demings (Florida’s 8th district). Demings is a former Orlando police chief, and if there is one word to describe her, it would be “intense.” In fact, Demings, an African-American who rose through the police department’s ranks and is making her first run for office, might be the single most intense candidate I have ever interviewed. This could be either good or bad. I’m not sure yet.

Though the state’s new lines haven’t been drawn, Demings says she will run against freshman GOP Rep. Daniel Webster. A conservative former president of the Florida Senate, Webster hasn’t exactly cut a high profile since he was elected.

Like other Democrats, Demings talks about Washington’s gridlock and officeholders forgetting who they are representing, but until she has to answer questions about how she would vote on key issues, it’s hard to know how she will sell with district voters. The shape of the district is still in doubt, so it is also hard to know what kind of an electorate she will be facing.

Pam Gulleson (North Dakota’s at-large). A former state legislator who worked for then-Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Gulleson looked at the Senate and House races before opting to run for the open at-large district.

Like other Democrats, she stresses the “independent” nature of voters in her state, and she argues that voters are “unhappy with partisanship.” Of course, all of the Democratic candidates I interviewed seem to think that Congressional Republicans are responsible for the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, a view that not all voters may share.

Gulleson clearly understands politics and elections. She has plenty of politics under her belt, so she isn’t likely to get flustered or make a big mistake during a campaign. But North Dakota won’t be favorable territory for President Barack Obama, so she’ll need to get the votes of many who vote Republican for president. The GOP field in the House race isn’t close to being set, so the contest is wide open.

Like other Democrats, Gulleson may be underestimating the problems caused by running with an unpopular president during a poor economy. Just ask former Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) about it.

Brendan Mullen (Indiana’s 2nd district). A former kicker on the Army football team, Mullen graduated from West Point, went to Airborne School and Ranger School and served multiple assignments, including in Iraq. Not surprisingly, given that background, he is focused and confident. You get the sense that he views the House race as his next “mission.”

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