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The first-time candidate calls himself a “pro-life, pro-gun moderate Democrat” and a job creator, and he is personable and articulate. He, too, has an interesting story, but he is running in a tough district that Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) is leaving to mount an uphill Senate campaign — a choice that undoubtedly stems from the difficulty Donnelly would have in holding the redrawn seat.
Donnelly won in 2010 only because he ran explicitly against then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Obama, so Mullen will have some interesting choices about the kind of campaign he will run this cycle. The favorite for the GOP nomination, Jackie Walorski, almost won the seat last time.
Mullen bears watching, if only because he is an attractive candidate. Whether he can win is another story. It’s too early to tell.
These and the other Democrats I wrote about in my last column seem to believe that they can run traditional campaigns against their GOP opponents. But if our politics have become truly “nationalized,” as some believe, the president’s re-election bid may color all downballot races, improving the prospects of some Democrats (running in favorable territory) and damaging the prospects of others.
In 2010, for example, Democratic attacks on Republican candidates often proved ineffective, as voters wanted to send a message about Pelosi, the president and the direction of the country.
Of course, if the president succeeds in demonizing the GOP, and independent voters swing back into the Democratic column, many of the Democrats I just interviewed could find 2012 to be a surprisingly favorable year.
Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.