Many of the Democrats who were swept out of their House seats in this year’s Republican wave lost by small margins.
It’s possible that in a more favorable political environment, those results could have gone the other way — or at least that’s the feeling of some Democratic members.
Titus said on Nov. 2 she planned to return to teaching after her term expires in January, but she’s since hinted she may run again in 2012.
If she does, Titus likely won’t be the only Democrat embroiled in a grudge match for his or her old seat. Several Democratic House members are in strong positions to run again in 2012, when President Obama is expected to lead the party’s ticket. But some members from more conservative districts could find the same harsh conditions that led to their defeats this cycle.
In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun last week, Titus noted she lost to former state Sen. Joe Heck (R) by only 2,000 votes despite trailing by 10 points in some pre-election polling.
“If we had another week, we could have won,” Titus said. “I think that says a lot of people liked what we were doing, a lot of people got our message. It wasn’t an overwhelming mandate for the other side, and it leaves our options open.”
Titus and other former Democratic members could be helped by having Obama at the top of the ticket. Obama carried Nevada’s 3rd district by 12 points in 2008. And, including Titus’s seat, Republicans are projected to have 31 freshmen in districts Obama won.
If the president’s popularity rebounds, it could prompt more members to seek their old jobs back.
Based on the results of the 2010 midterms, Democrats would like their odds in that scenario.
Republicans won nine of the 11 competitive House races that pitted a Democratic incumbent against a GOP challenger he or she had faced before.
The only two members to survive their grudge matches were Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and David Price (D-N.C.). Three of the grudge matches featured former members who won their old seats back. Two others former members, New Hampshire Republican Charlie Bass and New Mexico Republican Steve Pearce, were not in grudge matches but did win back their old seats.
Some Democratic incumbents, such as Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio), lost to weak Republican challengers simply because the environment was so unfavorable for the party. And other members, such as Reps. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) and Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.), appear to have lost despite winning in past cycles with 60-plus percent of the vote.
Etheridge asked for a recount in his race. A spokesman for the Democrat said a decision on 2012 won’t be made until after the race is officially decided. Bean had a similar message for reporters during a conference call last Friday. A spokeswoman for Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Arizona Rep. Harry Mitchell (D) isn’t ruling out a rematch with Republican David Schweikert. The two men faced off in 2008, when Mitchell won by nine points.
But this year, Schweikert prevailed, defeating the Democrat by the same margin.
“For the better part of close to 40 years, I’ve been lucky enough to hold the titles of teacher, councilman, mayor, senator and congressman,” Mitchell said in a statement to The Hill. “These experiences have taught me that the future isn’t something that you can set in stone — I never would have thought in 2005 that I would run for Congress and beat J.D. Hayworth — so right now I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds, and will continue to be involved in my community and work for causes I believe in.”
Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) lost his race against Republican state Sen. Robert Hurt by a tighter margin. Hurt defeated the freshman Democrat by only four points, less than the blowout many observers expected.
In his election-night concession speech, Perriello promised to “continue to find ways to serve my community and my country” — a comment the Roanoke Times noted.
“We fervently hope he will and have every reason to expect it,” the paper’s board wrote in a recent editorial.
The congressman hasn’t ruled out making another bid, according to Jessica Barba, a spokeswoman for Perriello: “There’s been no decisions made yet.”
For some members, a different cycle could present the same challenges they faced in 2010.
Reps. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) and Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) were all tagged as supporters of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) by their Republican challengers. They subsequently lost, despite refusing to publicly back Pelosi. In Minnick’s case, the margin was 10 points. Those Democrats, should they run again and with Pelosi serving as minority leader, would have to craft better answers regarding their relationship with the national party leadership.
Bright’s, Minnick’s and Taylor’s offices did not respond to requests for comment about the members’ plans for the 2012 cycle.
--Updated at 8:44 a.m. on Nov. 16