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July 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER
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Challenges Await Returning Hopefuls

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune/Associated Press
Former Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan's November outlook is precarious. He's challenging freshman GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack in Minnesota's 8th district, which is evenly split territory. But Nolan's backers remain undeterred in his ability to withstand the rigors and dangers of a modern campaign.

In fact, social media is one of the few places anyone can find Stockman. To say his campaign this year was mysterious is an understatement. He was rarely seen on the trail, and his campaign refused to respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.

Stockman was swept in during the GOP wave of 1994 and served just one term before losing re-election in 1996.  

In the years since, Stockman has attempted to return to elected office but most of his bids have been disorganized.

"I don't know how the hell he won," said one Texas GOP strategist familiar with the 2012 primary and runoff. "It's just weird."

But others say they do know. Stockman ran one of the most offbeat - and nastiest - campaigns of the entire cycle. His success has been widely attributed to an odd tactic he used in his previous Congressional races in 1994 and 1996.

He created tabloid-like mailers that completely tarred his rival, financial adviser Stephen Takach. Local media and the Takach campaign took issue with the honesty of the charges he made. But it worked, and he pulled out a win in the July runoff.

Like Stockman, Salmon came to Congress during the 1994 Republican revolution, and his toughest race was also his first  primary. Salmon didn't seek re-
election in 2000 in order to honor a term-limit pledge. He ran and lost a race for Arizona governor in 2002.

"It's a much different world," he said about the changes in campaign technology during the past decade. "Your thoughts are out there within a nanosecond. That's quite a bit different."  

But the tone of this year's primary against former Arizona Speaker Kirk Adams also was a change from the past.

"This is the nastiest race I've ever been in my life," he noted.

While Salmon and Stockman were part of the 1994 Republican revolution, Nolan was part of a different distinct wave. He was a 1974 "Watergate Baby" as part of the class of Democratic Members who came to Congress in the wake of President Richard Nixon's resignation.  

Nolan also won a difficult primary this year as part of his comeback effort. He defeated former state Sen. Tarryl Clark, who had the backing of EMILY's List and President Bill Clinton.

But Nolan's state ties ran deep, and most people cite his Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement as the reason he was able to become the party nominee.

His outlook this November is more precarious than that of Salmon and Stockman, both of whom are sure bets in safe districts. Nolan is challenging freshman GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack in Minnesota's 8th district, which is evenly split territory.

Early Democratic polls show Nolan with a small lead over Cravaack. Republicans have already mined Nolan's Congressional record and are quick to note that the world has changed since Nolan left politics.

"Campaigns back then and now are totally different animals," one national Republican strategist said. "I don't know if when he got into the race he was aware of how different they are or how difficult this is going to be. Things are a lot different now than in '78, when he last ran."

But Nolan's backers remain undeterred in his ability to withstand the rigors and dangers of a modern campaign.

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