Barney Frank just gave an assortment of reasons for his decision to end his 30-year congressional career: his concerns about redistricting, a feeling that he could be more effective outside of politics, a sudden desire to finish his long- abandoned Harvard Ph.D thesis. It’s true that Frank’s reelection campaign would be a challenge, since redistricting would strip him of some of his most liberal constituents. As he mentioned, it will also be difficult for him to campaign in new areas. Frank only won his last race by 11 percent – which suggested the 2012 one could be a toss-up:

Frank’s 2010 campaign manager, Kevin Sowyrda, said a key factor in the congressman’s decision was that the newly drawn up congressional districts strip away New Bedford from Frank. The South Coast, heavily Democratic, pro-union fishing city has long been a prime power base for Frank, but his new district now includes several more moderate suburban towns, such as Walpole, rather than New Bedford.

But is that really the only reason? The race might have been a close one. But would Frank, who would have been in line for head of the Financial Services Committee if the Democrats won back the House, really have walked away from reelection if he thought his party had a chance at regaining the House majority? It seems unlikely. Few people expect the Democrats will win the House in 2012, but they’d undoubtedly have a better shot with Frank running in that seat instead of an unknown candidate.