History suggests that this year's midterm losers may try again

Republicans now have the House majority, but Democrats retain their hold on the Senate. Here's how some key politicians fared in the midterms.
By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 14, 2010; 7:56 PM

The midterm election winners will arrive in Washington this week for freshman orientation. But what about the people they beat?

Recent history suggests that many of them will run again - perhaps as soon as 2012. This year, five Republican former members of Congress ran for their old seats and won. In Florida, Rep.-elect Allen West ousted Rep. Ron Klein (D) just two years after coming up short. And in Missouri, Jim Talent has acknowledged an interest in challenging Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) for his old seat in 2012.

Of course, reruns are not always successful. Delaware marketing consultant Christine O'Donnell has made - and lost - three Senate bids, including a resounding defeat on Nov. 2. Ditto former Washington state senator Dino Rossi, who lost runs for governor in 2004 and 2008 and fell short of Sen. Patty Murray (D) this time.

What does the future hold for some of 2010's most prominent losers? The Fix handicaps their prospects:

* Robin Carnahan: A member of Missouri's first Democratic family, Carnahan lost her Senate contest to Rep. Roy Blunt by double digits on Nov. 2. She will be up for reelection as secretary of state in 2012 and can reapply for the job for as long as she wants because it has no term limits. She has no obvious path to move up, however, with McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon (D) up for reelection in 2012. One possible option is a run for lieutenant governor in 2012 if Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) seeks another office.

* Alexi Giannoulias: The 30-something Illinois state treasurer was narrowly edged out by Rep. Mark Kirk (R) in the Senate race this fall. Almost immediately after that loss, it was rumored that Giannoulias was looking at a run for mayor of Chicago. He knocked down that idea late last week, but it seems clear to everyone in Illinois politics that Giannoulias will be in a statewide race sometime soon. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) just won reelection, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D) can probably hold the seat for as long as he wants. Giannoulias could run for governor in 2014 or wait until 2016 for a Kirk rematch.

* Ted Strickland: The soon-to-be-former governor of Ohio may well have run his last race. Before being elected in 2006, Strickland had spent 30 years in Ohio politics, a roller-coaster ride of wins and losses that culminated in five terms in the House representing the southern 6th District. At 69, Strickland may decide that after being defeated by former congressman John Kasich on Nov. 2, this was his last campaign.

* Christine O'Donnell: Three losses for the same office usually end any political career. (Politics is like baseball: Three strikes and you're out.) But O'Donnell defies political conventional wisdom and could well run - and almost certainly lose - sometime in the future in the First State. The more likely path? A role in the ever-growing politician/celebrity space.

* Brad Ellsworth: Ellsworth never had much of a chance in his bid for Indiana's open Senate seat because of the state's conservative tilt and a strong national wind blowing in his face. But having run statewide, Ellsworth is now well positioned at the front of the line for the governor's office in 2012 - as Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) faces a term limit - or for the seat of Sen. Richard Lugar, who some suggest will retire in 2012.

* Carly Fiorina: The former head of Hewlett-Packard ran a respectable race against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in California this fall, and there is some chatter that she could be a candidate for the Republican National Committee chairmanship early next year. She's antiabortion and has California connections to raise money - two traits that could make her an intriguing choice.

* Charlie Crist: The Florida governor was once destined - or presumably destined - for national office, but his party switch (Republican to independent) and disastrous Senate campaign this year may have ended his political career. "He destroyed his credibility with all his shifting and just came off looking like an unprincipled politician interested only in advancing up the electoral ladder," said Brad Coker, a principal in the Mason-Dixon Polling and Research firm.

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