Can Republicans Fear What They Don’t Know?

September 19, 2006 · 12:02 AM EDT
By Nathan L. Gonzales

Many Republicans this cycle are heading into uncharted waters. Members of Congress like Curt Weldon (PA-7) are facing their first reelection challenge in a couple of decades. But Weldon may have one piece of inspiration that many of his colleagues don't possess -- he knows what its like to be a member of the minority party in Congress.

Weldon and a few dozen other GOP members are aware of the hostile environment and the stakes of the election because they are fighting for their own seats. But a large number of the caucus simply may not know what they're headed for. Nearly two-thirds of the 213 Republicans looking to come back for the 110th Congress have never experienced life as the minority party in the House of Representatives.

Only seventy Republicans were elected before the 1994 GOP takeover, and three others, Rodney Alexander (LA-5), Ralph Hall (TX-4), and Virgil Goode (VA-5), spent time in the minority as Democrats.

If Republicans are looking for advice about life in the minority, there are handful of long-time GOP incumbents making their exit this year, including Jim Kolbe (AZ-8, elected 1984), Mike Bilirakis (FL-9 1982), Henry Hyde (IL-6 1974), Mike Oxley (OH-4 1981), and Sherwood Boehlert (NY-24 1982), who could shed some light on what may lie ahead.

This column first appeared on Political Wire on September 15, 2006.