Commentary Magazine


Fleeing the Scene?

In an e-mail update, the Cook Political Report describes the latest Democratic retirement: “Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon’s decision to retire from a district that is 13 points more Republican than the national average presents House Democrats with their most problematic open seat yet. It is the fourth troublesome retirement for Democrats in as many weeks, bringing the total number of open seats in marginal or GOP-leaning districts to seven.” It’s officially a trend. As Chris Cillizza observes: “Democratic strategists have insisted that the series of retirements are isolated cases not indicative of a broader fear among Members of Congress that the political environment is shaping up badly for their party in 2010. It may be more difficult to make that argument now.”

Or even impossible. It’s pretty hard to make the case that things are going well for the Democrats. Obama has hit a new low in Rasmussen, at 44 percent, creating tweezer-like graphs. And the congressional generic polling looks very red. Things can change, of course. But the danger for the Democrats in the meantime is that the retirements pile up, better GOP candidates enter the race, donors on the Democratic side get depressed, and the polling becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit explains the concern:

“Republicans are more and more in position to pick up a lot of Congressional seats next year,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “The tide continues to turn against the Democrats and that’s putting some districts that haven’t been close in quite a while into the competitive category.”

Congress could stop annoying the voters, of course: end the frenzied search for a magic formula to take over health care, work on some common-sense job-creation ideas, dial back on the spending binge, and find popular, bipartisan measures to champion (on education, for example). But it seems that’s not yet the game plan. Maybe some more retirements will do the trick.