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Top 10 Comeback Congressional Campaigns

The odds might be in their favor this time — at least if recent history is any indication.

In 2014, at least nine former House members will try to come back to Congress. Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown continues to flirt with a run in New Hampshire in 2014.

Many of their bids might seem like long shots now, but 17 current members and senators returned to Congress after a hiatus. That includes six House Democrats who returned this Congress after losing in 2010 and three House Republicans who returned that year after losing the previous cycle.

Here is Roll Call’s list of the top 10 former members who could come back in 2014, in order from most likely to least likely to return to Congress.

1. Former Rep. Marjorie Margolies, D-Pa.

Margolies served a single term two decades ago, but she remains famous among local Democrats for voting for President Bill Clinton’s budget. The Democrat has unsuccessfully run for two other offices since losing in 1994, and her ties to Clinton remain strong. (Her son Marc Mezvinsky is married to Chelsea.)

As one of four Democrats seeking the nomination in the dark blue 13th District, Margolies’ high name identification could help set her apart in the May primary. An August poll from the Margolies campaign showed 83 percent of voters were familiar with the 71-year-old.

That’s a big advantage in the Philadelphia suburbs with its pricey media market. This is a safe seat for Democrats, so the nominee will likely cruise to victory in November.

2. Former Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H.

Welcome to the comeback kingdom. This cycle could be the third time Guinta and Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter face off in the 1st District. In 2010, Guinta ousted Shea-Porter by 4 points. Last cycle, Shea-Porter returned to defeat Guinta by that same margin.

Republicans chalk up Guinta’s 2012 loss to President Barack Obama’s drag on the GOP ballot in the Granite State. They say off-year turnout will benefit Republicans in 2014 — an argument that helped put Shea-Porter on Roll Call’s recent list of the 10 most vulnerable House members this cycle.

But first, Guinta must survive a GOP primary against outgoing University of New Hampshire Business School Dean Daniel Innis. Another Republican, state Rep. John Cebrowski, is also reportedly considering a bid.

3. Former Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill.

Dold lost re-election last year largely thanks to redistricting. During the decennial redraw, Democrats moved wealthy and socially liberal parts of Wilmette and Kenilworth into the 10th District north of Chicago. Obama won the district by 16 points, and Dold lost to Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider by less than 1 percent.

Republican operatives cede Dold’s race will be tough in 2014, even though Democratic performance will probably drop off in the district without the president on the ballot. But they also argue that if any Republican can win there, it’s him. Dold was one of the more moderate members of the House GOP during his two-year stint in Congress.

Dold’s chances will be helped by his prolific fundraising: He had $819,000 in the bank at the end of September. Schneider trailed slightly, with $767,000 in cash on hand at that time.

4. Former Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif.

Ose retired from Congress in 2005, holding himself to a three-term-limit promise. He’s back this cycle to run in the 7th District, which includes a majority of the territory he represented in the early 2000s.

Privately, GOP operatives say his more moderate record makes him the strongest Republican to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in the general. It’s a competitive district, and Republicans and Democrats split registered voters.

Ose’s largest impediment to victory is a crowded primary that features two other Republicans. Capitol Hill aide Igor Birman and Autism activist Elizabeth Emken have largely embraced the tea party movement, and could goad Ose to the right. Moving too far right would hurt in this district, where Obama won by a 4-point margin in 2012.

5. Former Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y.

A benefactor of 2010’s tea party wave, Hayworth lost re-election two years later in a redrawn district. Republican strategists argue Hayworth can come back because she has the kind of record that appeals to middle-of-the-road voters in the 18th District. They say she is fiscally conservative but a moderate on social issues.

But privately, GOP operatives also complain that Hayworth didn’t have the kind of professional organization to run a successful bid in 2012. They add that she hasn’t yet learned from that mistake this time around.

Freshman Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has proved his fundraising prowess in this district, located between New York City suburbs and upstate. It might also help neutralize Hayworth’s ability to reach far into her own pockets to fund a comeback campaign.

6. Former Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill.

Much like Dold, Schilling came to the House in the 2010 tea party wave, and he lost his seat two years later, largely thanks to redistricting.

Democrats moved parts of Peoria in the 17th District, folding large populations of Democrat-leaning, blue collar voters into it. Obama won the district by a 17-point margin last year.

Like Dold, Republicans say Schilling’s background — including his ties to organized labor — make him the kind of Republican who could win this district in a good year for the GOP. But they also caution that freshman Rep. Cheri Bustos — an adept fundraiser — will be a tough Democrat to beat.

7. Former Sen. Scott P. Brown, R-Mass.

The former senator’s potential — and nearly unprecedented — comeback bid for Senate in New Hampshire is among the most fascinating stories of the 2014 midterms.

By moving to the swing state of New Hampshire, where he has family roots and a vacation home, Brown may attempt to do what no former senator has done since the 1870s: run and win in a different state than he previously represented.

Brown, who won the 2010 special election to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy, is actively being recruited by national Republicans to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is running for a second term. Republicans believe he may give the party its best shot in a state that could creep onto the competitive list should President Barack Obama’s approval ratings continue to drop.

Brown’s everyman reputation in the Bay State during his initial campaign and subsequent three-year Senate tenure gave him a shot at re-election in 2012. But he ultimately came up short in the solidly Democratic Bay State.

8. Former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga.

First elected in 1994, Barr lost his House seat in a member-vs.-member race eight years later. In 2008, he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president.

This cycle, Barr has set his sights on the 11th District. It’s an open-seat race because Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Republican, is running for Senate. But this primary is one of the most crowded GOP primaries in the country, with at least eight Republicans vying for the nod.

It’s almost guaranteed no candidate will receive the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff.But operatives say it’s likely Barr will make it to a runoff, thanks to his high name recognition.

But if Barr makes the one-on-one primary, Republican say baggage from his political past — including when he left and then rejoined the Republican Party — would probably sink his bid.

9. Former Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-Texas

Canseco is raring for a rematch after losing re-election last year to freshman Rep. Pete Gallego by a razor-thin margin. This cycle Canseco faces a competitive primary against former CIA agent Will Hurd — and it’s not clear whether he has the national GOP’s full support in his comeback attempt.

Canseco’s fundraising has also been lackluster, and his campaign rollout was so soft that many people did not realize he was running again. That said, Canseco defeated Hurd in 2010, and his high name identification in the district could help him do it again.

If he makes it past the primary, he must contend with a tough general election in the Lone Star State’s most competitive House district.

10. Former Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif.

Last cycle, Baca lost re-election thanks to redistricting and the state’s new top-two primary system. When his former district was split up in the 2010 redraw, Baca ran in the new 35th District. He lost to his longtime party rival, Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Calif.

This cycle, Baca is trying to return to Congress in the 31st District, which includes his hometown of Rialto. It’s strong Democratic territory, and most Democrats view defeating GOP Rep. Gary G. Miller as their best House pickup opportunity in the country.

But there are three other Democrats vying for the chance to oust Miller, two of whom are raising more money than Baca. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, a top Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruit, raised $502,000 this year. That dwarfs the $92,000 Baca brought in during the same time period.

His low fundraising — plus a debacle over which members are backing his campaign — has raised questions about his ability to run a campaign.

Amanda H. Allen, Abby Livingston and Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report.

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