Gabrielle Giffords will soon face decision about future
Giffords' district is a swing district with nearly equal percentages of Republican and Democratic voters. Potential Republican challengers are awaiting her decision before committing to the race. If she doesn't run, multiple candidates are expected to enter the fray. If she opts to run, there will be less enthusiasm on their part because they know Giffords would be a heavy favorite.
"It will be very difficult, but nothing is impossible," said Shane Wikfors, communications director for the Arizona Republican Party.
The difficulty of challenging Giffords transcends the issues. People are rooting for her regardless of political leanings, said Chuck Coughlin, a Republican strategist in Phoenix.
"She will forever have a very special place in all of Arizona's heart for the price she has paid for public service," Coughlin said.
Coughlin said that Giffords' ability to serve in Congress is a legitimate question that will have to be raised at some point in an election campaign by her opponent, but it won't be easy.
"They'll be booed out of the room initially for doing it," he said.
Coughlin said that voters over time will begin to examine for themselves her capacity to serve, and he believes that Giffords will have that same litmus test for herself. He spoke with Kelly in recent months and got the impression that Kelly viewed his wife's return to a meaningful public service role as helpful to her recovery.
"I think she'll be running for re-election as part of her recovery," Coughlin said.
C.J. Karamargin, who worked on Giffords staff as her spokesman until mid-August, said that every time he sees her, he notices distinct improvement. Based on his interaction with her, he believes she understands everything that is going on around her. She just has trouble articulating her thoughts. Around Labor Day, he teased her about how he had heard she was enjoying Houston, where she is undergoing therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital.
"She rolled her eyes and shook her head faster than a snap of the finger and said, 'no, no, no,'" Karamargin said.
Karamargin said that if Giffords returns, which he believes she will, she could play an important role in helping lawmakers bridge their differences on key issues.
"If Gabby gets back to Congress, I think she will bring with her this sense of, 'We can rise above this. I did it. We can do it.'"
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.