By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
ERLANGER - A little over a year ago, not many people in Northern Kentucky knew who Geoff Davis was.
Now Mr. Davis, who came within a few percentage points Tuesday of winning Democrat Ken Lucas' 4th District seat in Congress, is the GOP front-runner for the 2004 campaign.
Is it too early to be talking about a race that is two full years away? Not for Mr. Davis, who said during his Tuesday night concession speech that he was looking forward to running again in '04.
It's not Democrats who are quaking in their boots over hearing Mr. Davis' political plans. It is Republicans who were hoping to sit this election out and then go after Mr. Lucas' seat - don't forget, the congressman has said this is his third and last term - in 2004.
What they didn't count on was Mr. Davis running such as strong race, including taking all three Northern Kentucky counties by sizable margins.
It is true that when Mr. Davis got in this race 18 months ago, he didn't have the money, political polish, background, organization, local stature, connections, stump skills or much else needed to win a race for Congress.
But he did have one positive - easily the most important attribute - that the so-called big Republican names gearing up for the '04 race lacked:
With grit he learned as the son of a single parent, in the classrooms at West Point and in the field with U.S. troops in the violent Middle East, Mr. Davis stood up when others wouldn't even get off the floor.
He took on a congressman who is not only a local native well known for his civic, political and business involvement - heck, there is a building named after Mr. Lucas on NKU's campus - but one who was popular with Democrats and Republicans, including the president of the United States.
Nobody else wanted that fight. Mr. Davis looked forward to it.
Did he make mistakes? No doubt. He ran strong in Northern Kentucky, but he lost nearly every rural county. The big support from the eastern part of the district didn't come through. And some of Mr. Davis' ads went pretty far toward distorting the truth.
But politics isn't for the squeamish. Just ask all those Republicans who sat this race out.
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