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Is the economy scaring away good Republican candidates?

It depends whom you talk to. Democrats and nervous Republicans say yes; confident GOPers say no.

The ''downside'' view is that ''professional'' politicians who've run for office before are sitting out 1982. They know the party in power usually loses seats in a midterm election; and they worry that high unemployment will hurt GOP campaigners. The result, says pessimists: green and weak candidates.

GOP optimists see it differently. They claim lots of strong candidates attended campaign schools run by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Redistricting may be more important than the economy for the GOP. Incumbents in redrawn districts must campaign to lots of new voters. It's a challenger's year - and there are more Democrats to challenge.

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