Revenge of the perennial candidates

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Before running for the U.S. Senate this year, West Virginia Republican businessman John Raese had run — and lost — three statewide campaigns for office.

He’s what you might call a perennial candidate — a frequent, oftentimes irrelevant, presence on the ballot who continues to run for office despite having lost prior races. But this year, a number of these Republican perennial candidates for the U.S. Senate have ridden the Tea Party wave into becoming quite relevant.

Take Raese, for example, who continues his unlikely surge in the polls against Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin. On Wednesday, Rasmussen polling moved the race from the “toss up” designation to “leans GOP,” with Raese leading Manchin 50 percent to 44 percent.

And though it’s not a trend in every race, there are other examples of what you might call the “revenge of the perennial candidates.”

There’s Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell, the loser of two past Senate campaigns, whose ardent backing by the Tea Party Express contributed to her stunning victory over Rep. Mike Castle in the GOP primary. Still, polls continue to show her down in her general election match-up with Democrat Chris Coons.

There’s former Rep. Joe DioGuardi, who has run and lost five elections trying to regain his old congressional seat. Some polls show him closer than expected in his challenge of Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

And to a lesser extent — lesser extent because, despite his repeated runs, he has won election to the state legislature and it’s his first time running for this particular office — there’s Republican Dino Rossi of Washington state, who lost gubernatorial races in 2004 and 2008 before throwing his hat in the ring this year to challenge Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

The presence of also-rans on the Democratic side is not nearly as dense. But there are some. Take North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Elaine Marshall, for example, who ran and lost a primary bid for a Senate seat in 2002.

Cook Political report editor Jennifer Duffy, who jokingly called these Republicans “the unlikely candidates of the third time is a charm,” warned, however, against necessarily considering the nomination of  perennial candidates an election year trend.

Other nominees with Tea Party support — like Marco Rubio in Florida, Ken Buck in Colorado or Sharron Angle in Nevada — are not perennials.

But the nomination of the handful of examples of perennial candidates, she said, shows how Republican voters have often turned to the most conservative Republican during primaries this cycle.

“I think there are examples of candidates who have run for other things in the past who have benefited from the environment of being the most conservative out there,” she said.

And Raese in West Virginia is undoubtedly one such candidate, who is taking advantage of his state’s low approval numbers of President Obama and tying Manchin to the policies coming out of the White House.

In an interview with The Daily Caller last month, Raese acknowledged that, “A lot of the things I’ve stood for over the years maybe didn’t resonate,” referencing his past unsuccessful attempts at running for office. “But I can say this. They certainly resonate today.”