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Posted at 2:52 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Gabrielle Giffords was planning possible Senate run before shooting

By Chris Cillizza

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt last month, had given indications to her closest circle of political advisers prior to the shooting that if Sen. Jon Kyl (R) retired that she would make the race.

"Prior to the tragedy, she had decided that if Kyl retired, she would run," said a source close to Giffords granted anonymity to speak candidly about private conversations. The source added that Giffords did not, at that time, expect Kyl to retire.

But, retire he did this morning -- creating a potentially competitive open seat that both parties are likely to target.

It's not clear whether Giffords remains interested in running or if she could, physically, meet the demands of a statewide campaign.

But, Giffords' previously expressed interest in the contest coupled with her rapid recovery from the shooting creates at least the possibility that she could make the race, according to her allies.

Assuming she could run, Giffords would be a formidable candidate not solely due to her hero status in the state -- and the nation -- but also because of her previously demonstrated fundraising capacity and skills on the stump.

What remains to be seen is whether the idea of a Giffords' candidacy effectively freezes the Democratic field as people wait to see what she might do -- allowing her time to recover and fully consider the possibility of a bid.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, is seen by many as the strongest potential candidate for the party.

"We are not going to engage in speculation right now," said DHS spokesman Matt Chandler about the possibility of the Secretary running for Senate. "The Secretary looks forward to continuing to work the Senator Kyl over the next two years and wishes him the very best in his upcoming retirement."

Other names mentioned for Democrats are former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, former state party chairman Jim Pederson, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke and former state Attorney General Terry Goddard.

On the Republican side, Rep. Jeff Flake is widely expected to run and, in the early jockeying after Kyl's retirement, is seen as the frontrunner. But, others including former Rep. John Shadegg are mentioned.

With Anne Kornblut

By Chris Cillizza  | February 10, 2011; 2:52 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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