Missouri Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) said he's confident redistricting won't eliminate his seat, but if it does, he still plans to run for Congress again in 2012 — even it means challenging a fellow lawmaker.
The four-term Democrat also predicted that President Obama will be a boon to the party's electoral fortunes in 2012.
With its population declining over the last decade, Missouri has lost one of its nine House seats through reapportionment. Observers believe that could it could be Carnahan's St. Louis-area district on the chopping block. That district encompasses the area south of the city and could be merged into the other two metro-region seats.
That would see Carnahan in a potential head-to-head contest against either Rep. Lacy Clay (D) or Rep. Todd Akin (R). Carnahan said he was committed to running again, regardless of what redistricting brings.
"There's a lot of speculation out there," he told The Ballot Box. "I'm 100 percent focused on running for Congress in 2012."
Carnahan said the 2010 Census has shown St. Louis making "substantial gains in population."
"As did some of the suburban areas of my district, so I think there's a strong case to keeping three whole seats for the St. Louis region. We have the population for that," Carnahan said.
Observers have also speculated that Carnahan may leave to run for another office. The state's lieutenant governor, Republican Peter Kinder, is expected to challenge either Gov. Jay Nixon (D) or Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). That could provide Carnahan — whose father, the late-Gov. Mel Carnahan, held the state's No. 2 job for a term — with an alternative to running against another member.
Carnahan said he has no plans to seek the lieutenant governor's job. "I'm 100 percent focused on getting through that [redistricting] process and running for Congress again in 2012," he said.
Missouri is expected to be a tough environment for Democrats in 2012, but Carnahan speculated that having Obama on the ticket will be helpful to the party.
"He'll energize a lot of voters," he said. "I'm optimistic about him really building up another strong organization there for our Democratic ticket."
Obama came close to winning the state last cycle, when he pulled in almost 200,000 more votes than the previous Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), did in 2004.
The president "showed what he could do in 2008," Carnahan said, noting he lost to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by fewer than 5,000 votes. "I think he's got a good base to build on there."