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Gabrielle Giffords' surprise return: Proof that she's running in 2012?
The recovering congresswoman's emotional visit to the House floor Monday night warmed a cynical nation — and fueled speculation about her future
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) greets colleagues on the House floor Monday:  The Democrat, like every member of the House, is up for re-election in 2012, and some say her D.C. appearance proves she'll run.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) greets colleagues on the House floor Monday: The Democrat, like every member of the House, is up for re-election in 2012, and some say her D.C. appearance proves she'll run.
REUTERS/House TV
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ep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) surprised colleagues with an emotional return to the House floor Monday night to cast her vote on the debt ceiling bill. Beyond adding a veneer of class to the ugly debt-limit fight, her return fueled speculation that she'll run for re-election in 2012 — especially given the remarkable recovery the congresswoman has made since a nearly lethal January assassination attempt. Her office say no decision has been made yet, but could Giffords actually be running?

Dems certainly hope so: The "political reality" is that Giffords is a "popular, moderate" politician who has thrived in Arizona, a state that is trending "increasingly conservative," say Mark Perigard at The Boston Herald. She's also one of only three Democrats remaining in Arizona's congressional delegation. It's no wonder her colleagues have been fundraising on her behalf. Finding another Democratic candidate to win the seat "would be a tall order." 
"Giffords' return: A nod toward 2012?

And she has the luxury of time: Giffords doesn't have to make a decision yet, says Josh Voorhees at Slate, thanks to the efforts of her Democratic colleagues who have already "laid the financial foundation of a re-election campaign for her." She's been named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Frontline" program, which assists with fundraising and outreach to help protect "vulnerable incumbents." Waiting to announce may help Giffords, too. GOP rivals "have been treading carefully" during her recovery, and will not likely launch a campaign to unseat her until she makes a formal decision.
"Surprise Giffords appearance sparks latest 2012 speculation"

But will she be healthy enough? "Just because she voted once doesn't mean she's back for good," says Arizona NBC affiliate KVOA. Doctors say she still has limitations, even though "mentally she's ready." A re-election campaign would be physically taxing on the still-recovering congresswoman, and it's still "too soon to tell" if she could handle the daily rough-and-tumble demands.
"Possibility of Giffords running again"

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