4 House Retirements Bode Ill for Democrats in 2010

Wednesday, 16 Dec 2009 01:48 PM

By Dan Weil

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Here's another ominous sign for Democrats in the midterm elections next year: Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee is the fourth House Democrat to retire during the past month.

Gordon's public explanation for retiring after 25 years in office was that he wants to spend more time with his family. But party insiders told The Washington Post that he didn’t want to face a competitive race next year.

The other Democrats who quit recently also represented swing districts: Dennis Moore of Kansas, John Tanner of Tennessee, and Brian Baird of Washington.

"Four retirements in and of themselves isn't enough to create a big problem," said Martin Frost, a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "If there were to be 10 or 15 retirements like this, that is a problem" for the committee.

Democratic consultants disagree. "Until this point, this was manageable and reasonable," one strategist told The Post. "This is serious."

Democrats’ popularity clearly is waning. President Obama’s approval rating recently slipped below 50 percent for the first time since he took office.

Meanwhile, Republicans have become more united as they mount opposition to Democrats’ healthcare reform plans. And the GOP gained momentum with victories in New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races last month.

As for the retirements, Democrats are concerned that representatives might start falling like dominoes.

Other potential retirees include John Spratt of South Carolina, Vic Snyder and Marion Berry of Arkansas, and Chet Edwards of Texas.

"Democrats are beginning to see the writing on the wall, and instead of choosing to fight in a difficult political environment, they are taking a pass and opting for retirement," Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Tex., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told The Post.

Republicans also have a chance to make gains in the Senate next year, according to former White House adviser Karl Rove.

“Today, there are only 40 Republicans in the Senate,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “In January 2011, there could be 44, 46 or more if the party runs strong campaigns in contests that haven't jelled yet, or if some Democrats retire instead of risking defeat.”

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