Six 2012 House losers to watch in 2014

If at first you don't succeed, there's always 2014. [WATCH VIDEO]

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That's what some defeated House candidates from 2012 are hoping, at least.

Several failed candidates who ran strong campaigns, but fell just short last year, are back for a rematch this election cycle. 

Whether they can use lessons learned in their losing campaign to change next year's results will go a long way in determining which party gains seats in the House.



Here's a look at six returning challengers:


Businessman David Rouzer (R) 

Rouzer came within 700 votes of defeating Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) in 2012, marking the closest House race in the country last election. He has already announced he’ll challenge the longtime Blue Dog Democrat once again next year.

Rouzer’s first campaign was hampered by a nasty, expensive and late primary against a Tea Party candidate who’d been the GOP nominee in 2010.

His campaign is expecting — and hoping for — a clear primary field this time around that will let him save his resources for the general election. That could allow him to focus more on letting voters get to know him, rather than just fire away at McIntyre in the heavily Republican district.

“Every time a decision point came, the circumstances told them to punch back [with negative advertising]. That changes this time, with more time and money,” Rouzer consultant Brock McCleary told The Hill. 

“The job of the campaign is to really focus on telling his story. There will be plenty of negative ads against Rouzer and McIntyre from the outside groups. The job of the Rouzer campaign is to tell voters who David is and what he believes.”

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R)

Love is back for a rematch against Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) after losing to him by less than 800 votes last election in a heavily Republican district.

Love, an African American Mormon, was among the party’s most highly touted House recruits in 2012 and given a prominent speaking slot at last year’s Republican National Convention.

But she got a late start in the campaign, had less than stellar television ads that focused more on Matheson than her own story, and was following the advice of inaccurate internal polls that showed her up the entire race. 

Some Republicans also say she spent too much time focused on national media and not enough time focused on her district.

This time around, Love is starting her campaign much earlier and has already hired perhaps the state’s most talented political strategist: Dave Hansen, who ran Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) 2012 reelection campaign.

Love admits that her campaign made some mistakes — including relying too much on expected high turnout for Mitt Romney that didn’t materialize.

“If I learned anything in the last campaign, it’s that you need to give people a reason to come out and get them to the polls, you can't assume that they're going to go. Certainly the ground game is going to be a lot stronger in terms of getting people out,” she told The Hill. 

“I am absolutely aware of the things we can improve upon and what actually worked, and it'll make me a much stronger candidate.”

Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) 

Aguilar was one of Democrats’ top recruits in 2012 — but California’s quirky new primary system kept him from even reaching the general election.

Aguilar finished in third place in his district’s all-party primary behind Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) and another Republican candidate. In California, the top two vote-winners advance to the general election.

He’s now back for another shot at Miller — with the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

But he faces what could be another tough primary battle: Former Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) has decided to run in the district, as has Attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes (D), who is likely to get backing from the deep-pocketed EMILY'S List, a PAC that supports pro-abortion rights candidates.

Aguilar is the favored candidate of national Democrats, and if he emerges as the party’s nominee he’ll have a good shot at winning the Democratic-leaning district. But in a crowded primary anything can happen, as he learned in 2012. 

Aguilar's campaign said an early start would help them this time around.

"Instead of running a 19-week campaign, Pete is running a 19-month campaign," said Aguilar spokesman Boris Medzhibovsky. "Getting in early will give us more time to build a strong coalition and make sure we have the necessary resources to be successful."


Businessman Rick Allen (R) 

Allen fell just short of winning the GOP primary to challenge Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) in a heavily Republican district, despite spending more than $600,000 in the race.

Allen was hamstrung by geography: He and another Republican in the race hailed from Augusta and shared similar business profiles, and spent much of the primary beating up on one another. That let a third Republican, a rural farmer, squeak through with a primary win.

This time around, Allen has just one primary opponent so far: John Stone, who lost to Barrow by wide margins in past elections in a less Republican district. Allen is favored by many in the GOP establishment who believe he’d be the stronger general election candidate. Barrow will be a top target in the general election.

Former Air Force Col. Martha McSally (R) 

McSally came within a percentage point of defeating Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) in a Tucson-based swing district in 2012, and is seriously mulling another run at the seat.

McSally faced a truncated election schedule because of Barber’s special election, and national Republicans were late to realize how close the race was, failing to spend in the district until the final weeks of the campaign.

They believe that, with more time and money, McSally will be able to get her life story out — and that with more national support this time she’ll have a good shot at winning the seat. McSally was the first woman to fly in combat and the first woman to command a fighter squadron.

U.S. Army Veteran Brendan Mullen (D) 

Mullen ran a surprisingly close race against Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), and is giving strong consideration to another run at the seat.

Mullen came within 2 percentage points of defeating Walorski in 2012 despite the district giving Mitt Romney a 14-point win.

Democrats are hopeful he’ll have more success if he runs this time, and may give more support to his campaign this cycle after not spending in the district until shortly before the election last time around. 

But Republicans point out that Mullen’s performance may have been more due to coattails from Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who at the time represented the congressional district.

- This story was updated to clarify that EMILY's List is a PAC that supports pro-abortion rights candidates. 


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