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Roscoe Bartlett Ready to Fight for His Seat

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

He cites his distaste for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the USA PATRIOT Act, military tribunals, the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, imprisonments, the No Child Left Behind Act and the 2008 bank bailouts. He describes himself as "the greenest Republican on Capitol Hill" and is quick to tout his Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsement.

But Bartlett is no liberal. He advocates the elimination of corporate tax rates, he is staunchly anti-abortion, and he is against same-sex marriage. When speaking of his date to the State of the Union, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), he said, "She's a very nice socialist."

Ideology will not be his only problem. Many question his physical and mental capacity to serve in Congress.

Bartlett, who holds a doctorate, exhibits a firm grasp on a wide range of policy and appears to be in exceptional physical shape for his age.

Over the course of a November interview with Roll Call, he walked from the Capitol through the House tunnel while 20-something and 30-something staffers rode the subway.

The top two Democratic candidates in the race state Sen. Rob Garagiola and wealthy businessman John Delaney said they would not make Bartlett's age an issue.

But it's hard to see how the generational divide won't be raised ahead of the November election, whether it's tacit or explicit.

'I Am Who I Am'

Before he can focus on the general election, Bartlett faces state Sen. David Brinkley in the April 3 GOP primary.

At the mention of Brinkley's name in a recent interview, Bartlett almost immediately homed in on what other Republicans only whisper about: Brinkley's messy divorce.

But it is Garagiola for whom Bartlett reserves the most contempt.

"They created this thing for Garagiola," he said, acknowledging that the district was crafted with the state Senator in mind.

Bartlett says he has never met the 39-year-old Democrat. But multiple times he jokingly said he might donate money to the Garagiola campaign.

"My biggest concern is that Garagiola may not win the primary," Bartlett said. "He's everything my voters don't want. ... I would debate him a hundred times."

Garagiola campaign manager Sean Rankin responded that his campaign is confident of victory, even after an expensive Democratic primary.

"When Sen. Garagiola does face Rep. Bartlett, we're going to win hands down," he said.

As of press time, Bartlett's approximately 1,100 Facebook fans were almost more than Brinkley, Garagiola and Delaney had combined. Bartlett for Congress ads are omnipresent on Facebook, which might account for his jump, but regardless, it's smart campaigning strategy.

His Twitter following is less impressive, but he just joined in January.

"In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I'd encourage you to 'Show the Love'" and donate to the campaign, read one tweet this week.

A staffer stressed Bartlett is involved in social media strategy and is behind its messaging. But the Congressman would not say he actually logs in to his Facebook or Twitter accounts. He is "of another generation" but said, "I understand that's a very important part of a campaign."

Even with all the new social media, there are still old-school campaign tactics he employs, including standing on the side of busy roads during rush hour waving a campaign sign.

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