We all could use a little good news today. The Hill reports, House GOP fears retirement wave will lead to tsunami:
House Republicans plotting to win back their majority in Congress fear they are on the brink of a massive wave of retirements that could force them to play defense in a high-stakes presidential election year.
Three House Republicans said last week they would not seek another term next year, catching party strategists off guard. Those announcements came earlier than in a typical election cycle, when members who are ready to hang up their voting cards usually wait until after the August recess or after the Christmas break.
Republicans in Congress strategizing to win back the House say the rush to the exits reflects the depressing reality of life in the minority and a pessimistic view of the GOP’s chances of regaining the majority.
“We are in the minority. That is never much fun in the House,” said one senior Republican member of Congress, who asked for anonymity to provide a candid assessment. “The odds are against us retaking the majority.”
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Republican strategists say they are bracing for a new wave of exits after members check in with their families over the August recess. Two dozen Republicans won their reelection bids in 2018 by fewer than 5 percentage points; another 25 won by fewer than 10 points.
“There are going to be a lot more [retirements] to come,” said one consultant who works for House Republicans. “Between people finding themselves having to actually work hard for the first time in their long, lazy careers and members who came in in the majority and now hate life in the minority, it’s just getting started.”
Two of the members who announced their retirements last week — Reps. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) and Martha Roby (R-Ala.) — represent deep-red districts where their successor will almost certainly be chosen in the Republican primary.
There are no certainties in politics. Anything can happen.
But a third, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), holds a seat that is likely to be competitive. Olson won election to his final term by just 5 percentage points in 2018, and Democrats have signaled that districts like his, in the rapidly growing Houston suburbs, are their prime targets.
Six Republicans have now said they will not seek reelection next year. Two more, Reps. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) and Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), are running for a different office.
Make that seven, actually. Texas Rep. Conaway, top Republican on Agriculture panel, not seeking reelection: Conaway is the sixth Republican this year to announce a decision not to seek reelection. That does not include Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, who recently reiterated his decision to retire after this term — an announcement he first made in 2017.
UPDATE: On Thursday, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) became the eighth Republican to announce his retirement, and the third Republican congressman from Texas. Texas GOP lawmaker Will Hurd retiring. Beto O’Rourke needs to return home to Texas to run for the senate or return to the house.
Democrats will try to make life uncomfortable for those Republicans who won the narrowest races in 2018. Already, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has highlighted 19 Republicans they say are on their retirement watch list — including two, Olson and Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), who have said they won’t run again.
The next tipping point could come in September, when voters in North Carolina head to the polls in a special election meant to fill a vacant seat.
Republican Mark Harris won the seat in a 2018 election marred by absentee ballot fraud, an election the state Board of Elections overturned. Private polling shows a close race between state Sen. Dan Bishop (R) and Iraq War veteran Dan McCready (D).
“Expect more [retirements] if Republicans lose NC-09,” said another Republican strategist involved in House races.
History argues against House Republicans’ chances of winning back their majority in a presidential year. The last time a party lost the majority in a midterm only to win it back two years later came in 1948, when Harry Truman won election to a full term and carried the House with him.
No party has gone from the minority to the majority in a presidential election year since Republicans won a narrow majority in 1952, the year Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency.
More immediate historical precedent suggests Republicans might fall even farther into the minority. President Trump’s approval ratings remain mired in the 40s, and some Republicans in Congress quietly worry he is headed for defeat next year. Others are simply tired of being asked to answer for every tweet.
“It’s way too early to tell what the [political] dynamic will be, but Trump doesn’t seem to be adding to the equation at this point. He’s doing a lot with his base, but he needs to get beyond that base,” Davis said.
The AP reports:
Each of the 62 freshmen House Democrats has raised more money than their top opponent. The same is true for all 31 Democrats from districts President Donald Trump had won in 2016 and for all 39 Democrats who snatched Republican-held seats last November.
In nearly all cases it’s not even close. While there’s overlap among the categories, most of these Democrats’ war chests are multiples of what their leading challengers have garnered. That’s testament to the historic ability of both parties’ incumbents to attract contributions and Democrats’ strategy of aggressively collecting money quickly in hopes of scaring off potential challengers and seizing on the anti-Trump enthusiasm that fueled their House takeover last year .
“You don’t want to put money in a race where somebody’s doing that well,” said freshman Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., describing the view GOP donors could take when confronted with Democrats who’ve raised lots of money. “That means to me we can solidify our races early, especially if the polling stays solid.”
Democrats’ money advantages reflect reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the first half of 2019, so plenty can change by Election Day. Many serious challengers haven’t commenced their campaigns yet or have only recently started raising money, and many Republicans will eventually overtake their Democratic rivals.
And then there is the GOP “dark money” machine funded by corporate millionaires and billionaires which will only kick in next year.
In addition, by November 2020 many GOP candidates will be bolstered by the Republican Party’s allied super PACs, political action committees that can spend unlimited funds. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the GOP super PAC that helps House candidates, unleashed $159 million in 2018 races, well above the $96 million by Democrats’ House Majority Fund.
“We haven’t seen anything yet. Wait till the super PACs start dropping their bombs later in the cycle,” warned former New York Rep. Steve Israel, who once led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, House Democrats’ election organization.
Even so, warning signs for the GOP are scattered around the country.
Sixteen freshmen Democrats ousted Republicans last year by a narrow 4 percentage points or less, and all but two of them have raised at least twice as much as their nearest GOP rival: Reps. Gil Cisneros of Southern California and Oklahoma’s Horn.
Underscoring Democrats’ efforts to shore up vulnerable incumbents, 26 of the 62 Democratic freshmen have already raised $1 million or more. They’re led by the nearly $2 million accumulated by the party’s highest-profile newcomer, progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez , who has a safe New York City seat but seems likely to use some money to help others.
Also exceeding $1 million in receipts are 13 of the 31 Democrats who captured Trump-won districts, and 23 of the 39 Democrats who grabbed GOP seats.
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The DCCC should further shore up Democrats. It disbursed $297 million helping candidates for 2018, exceeding the $201 million spent by its counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee. It’s ahead in this year’s money race as well.
Now if only the DSCC was demonstrating as much success in recruiting and funding candidates to take back the Senate, which should be Democrats top priority.