Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who dramatically returned to the House for a critical vote this week for the first time since she was shot in the head in January, has recovered well enough to run for re-election, her doctors said, according to televised news reports.
C.J. Karamargin, a spokesman for Giffords, told NBC station Tucscon affiliate KVOA that Giffords had made no decision yet. The deadline to file for the 2012 ballot isn't until May, "and that's still a while off," he said, adding, "The congresswoman is focusing her efforts on recovery. She wants to return to work full time, and when she's able, she will."
Peter Rhee, the neurosurgeon who operated on Giffords' brain at University Medical Center in Tucson after she was shot at a public appearance Jan. 8, told KVOA that Giffords still had obvious physical limitations, but that her mental faculties had fully recovered.
"There's no real reason she wouldn't be able to hold office," Rhee said, adding, "It's not about her capabilities. It's purely [a decision] that is personal and what her desires are. I'll support her in whichever way she goes."
Rainer Gruessner, chief of surgery at the hospital, told NBC's Lee Cowan on Nightly News that there was always "light at the end of the tunnel" and that when Giffords cast her vote, "we saw the light."
Giffords' Tucson district director, Ron Barber, told KVOA Giffords proved her fitness with her vote for compromise legislation raising the national debt ceiling Monday. He said Giffords had the bill emailed to her before she left for Washington, and "she read the whole thing on the plane to D.C., so she [could] walk in there and absolutely say she knew what was in it.”
"Plus, she had studied the main points before she went," added Barber, who was shot twice himself in the January attack, in which six people were killed and 10 other people were injured.
Friends and other supporters, saying they expect Giffords to run, have raised nearly $800,000 for another campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a close friend of Giffords', told NBC's Kelly O'Donnell on Nightly News that she was eager to help.
Mentally, Giffords "understands everything," said Gillibrand, who, also said on Nightly News that she had lunch with Giffords this week. "She has opinions on everything."
The challenge, should Giffords return to Congress, will be "to be able to fully articulate her thoughts the way she did before this awful crime," Gillibrand said.
Giffords has returned to Houston for further rehabilitation, but she had a private lunch with her staff in Washington this week, aides told Nightly News.
If she runs again, she will have strong support from constituents like Louise Brockway of Tucson, who said she was inspired by Giffords.
"I think she epitomizes getting along in the political world," Brockway said on Nightly News.