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If Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) knows just how politically vulnerable he is this cycle, he doesn’t show it.
The fourth-term Blue Dog is charismatic, agreeable, hardworking and politically savvy. But those qualities may not be enough to retain his spot as the only Democrat representing a majority-white district in the Deep South.
In redistricting, Barrow and a huge swath of Democrats were drawn out of the Peach State’s 12th district and replaced with Republicans, mostly from the Augusta area. The new district would have voted more than 59 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election — an increase of 10 points over the current district Barrow represents.
In an interview in his Capitol Hill office, Barrow appeared unfazed. Asked how he can win given the demographic shift, he was blunt.
“It would be more difficult for some, but it won’t be for me,” Barrow said. “While the margin will be affected some, it won’t be enough to make a difference.”
That’s a debatable proposition.
Barrow said he is definitely running for re-election in the 12th district and will move into it once the lines are finalized. Litigation on the new map is pending.
The distillation of his message: He is a proven independent. Barrow says he has built a record of voting with his district even when his party is going the other way.
“I’ve got the stripes and the scars to show for it. It’s not something I just say at election time. I’ve been primaried for it. I have been beat up,” he said.
Barrow voted 91 percent with Democrats in 2010, according to a CQ Vote Study. However, he parted with his fellow Democrats — and the White House — on some marquee issues in recent years. He voted against the Democratic-written health care bill, against cap-and-trade legislation and, earlier, against the Troubled Asset Relief Program bill.
Two votes with his party that Republicans won’t let him forget this cycle: for the 2009 stimulus and against repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Barrow said he has no regrets on any of his big votes, especially voting against the health care bill and against its repeal.
“Any way you slice it, while we’re stuck with the thing, as long as we have the current Senate and the current administration, I think our policy has got to be fix and to make it better,” he said, ticking off a list of places where he has supported legislation to adjust the massive health care law.