U.S. Rep. Mike Ross photo

  • AT ANNOUNCEMENT: U.S. Rep. Mike Ross.

U.S. Mike Ross of Prescott surprised everyone by scheduling an announcement this morning in Little Rock to say he would not seek a seventh term in Congress in 2012.

His statement is on the jump. He said he hadn’t decided yet on a race for governor in 2014, which he’s long been expected to make. But his reference to the race indicates it is very much in his sights.

If he plans a race for governor in 2014, a seat in Congress offered a higher profile. The announcement seemed oddly timed after a rip-roaring partisan speech to the Democratic Party at a fund-raiser Saturday night. Ross, who’s been steadily raising money for re-election, also gave $10,000 from his political committee to the state Democratic Party.

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Weird.

Republicans were sneering at Ross over the weekend for his supposed politicial ambitions. Some of the criticism came from people planning to seek to move up themselves, such as U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, who’s expected to try to take revenge on Sen. Mark Pryor for blocking his U.S. attorney appointment by running against him in 2014.

It’s hard in the House now for minority Dems, particularly Blue Dog Dems such as Ross, but Ross has taken on long-shot challenges before and been in the minority before. He made a million selling his hometown pharmacy, where his wife still works, but he’s not in the independently wealthy status that some politicians are.

He has more than $300,000 in his campaign account. He’d been targeted by the Republican National Committee and by Karl Rove’s “independent” pro-Republican attack machine. Their money can be expected to pour into the 4th District, viewed as a conservative area likely to be friendly to Republicans and which, in slightly different form, elected Republican Jay Dickey before Ross unseated him. I need to check, but I think Ross’ excess federal cash can be transferred to a state race. He might do well to give more of it to state Democratic Party for 2012. Wouldn’t be much fun elected Democratic governor with a Republican legislature. UPDATE: A state Ethics Commission opinion says federal money cannot be transferred to a state race. He can give it up to individual limits for state races, to the state party or to federal campaigns.

Noted at news conference: Ross said it wouldn’t be “fair” to his constituents if were to be re-elected and then take time away from job to run for governor. Early dig at Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who probably won’t be quitting that job to run for governor?

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NOTED: Had Ross announced this decision earlier, the congressional redistricting perhaps could have been drawn in a way more favorable to a return of the 1st District to Democrats. HOWEVER, that’s a republican view. Some Democrats think the final plan made Ross’ plan redder, unlike the earlier Democratic plan (Fayetteville Finger) that would have helped all districts. He didn’t care. He figured he could win again. But he was making plans all along to run for governor. Out of office, he can rewrite his story about what kind of Democrat he was. (Not much of one.)

ALSO ON THE JUMP: A GOP butt-kicking of Ross as he heads for the door. Democrats ought to kick him, too. He’s given Republicans a huge leg-up on winning the seat. Good Democrats will remember that in the 2014 primary.

“Sources close to” many people are saying they are “considering” a race. No kidding. Republican siders include: Tom Cotton of Dardanelle, Beth Anne Rankin (waxed by Ross last year) and Rep. Lane Jean of Magnolia.

Ross took a few questions from the press before running to the airport to catch a flight back to Washington to take part in the debate over the debt ceiling. Ross talks about the lack of compromise from congressional Republicans and says things won’t get done if one side refuses to meet in the middle. Ross also said he was “fed up with Congress.”