Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Retirements Confound Democratic House Quest

How does that song go, again? Let's see: "Happy Days are Here Agaiinnn!"

Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank’s announcement Monday that he won’t run for re-election marks the 17th Democratic departure from the House this year, compared with only six Republicans. Those numbers don’t bode well for Democrats in their effort to take back control of the House in next year’s elections, Politico and The Hill report.

Democrats and Republicans alike see tough times ahead for House Democrats. “Members of the House don’t focus on their own politics. They focus on whether they are going to be in the majority and can push an agenda,” former Democratic Alabama Rep. Artur Davis told Politico.

“There are very few Democrats who see the prospect of the House shifting. I predict there will be five to 10 other senior Democrats that will announce their retirements in the coming months.”

The Democratic retirements fit a historical pattern. When either party loses a majority, its representatives get discouraged — and some hang it up. After the GOP ceded its House control in 2006, 27 Republicans opted for retirement, compared with six Democrats.

“Members of Congress don’t retire when things are good. They just don’t,” Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told The Hill. “I think they’re looking at it right now and saying, ‘It’s unlikely we’re going to win the House back. If anything, it’s likely we won’t have the Senate, and the White House is a 50-50 shot, at best.’”

Democrats also may be worried that it will be many years before their party returns to power in the House, especially with the economy looking like it won’t recover anytime soon, Chris Perkins, a GOP pollster in Texas, told The Hill.

“What it does is allow the Republicans to build a narrative,” he said. “It makes the recruiting efforts for the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee]that much harder, when potential candidates see a lot of senior members bailing.”

Democrats also are fearful of the recent redistricting moves that will make some of their races a lot more difficult. Frank cited changes in his district’s boundaries as a reason for retirement.

California Rep. Dennis Cardoza, whose district was greatly reshaped, put the problem bluntly, telling Politico: “You have to represent people [who] you’ve never represented before. To represent nearly half of new voters . . . well, that’s not my idea of a good time.”

Some of the retirees aren’t too happy with their party leaders. Four of the nine Democrats who are departing and not seeking another office in 2012 voted against Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader.

Cardoza is upset with the White House, saying he is “dismayed by the administration’s failure to understand and effectively address the current housing foreclosure crisis.
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