After Loss of Majority, Several Republicans Head for Exits
A rash of retirements among House Republicans is adding to the party’s electoral challenges and raising questions about a rush for the exits.
Four House Republicans — Representatives J. Dennis Hastert and Ray LaHood, both of Illinois; Deborah Pryce of Ohio; and Charles W. Pickering Jr. of Mississippi — have all announced in recent days that they will not seek re-election next year, worrying Republican leaders anxious to hold back a potential wave of retirements after the loss of their majority in 2006. Mr. Hastert, the former speaker, Mr. LaHood and Ms. Pryce were all well-liked leaders within their party.
However, this wasn't the really interesting news to me. Buried well below the lead, there is a breakdown of the upcoming Senate races. The sad truth is that, in politics today, it still all comes down to the money. And one big question is, how many seats will you have to defend? While polls and national unhappiness with various policies have many predicting doom and gloom for the GOP, the raw financial numbers for their Senate campaign efforts look even more dismal.
Senate Republicans may face a special challenge because they have so many seats to defend. Of the 34 Senate seats up for election next year, about two-thirds are occupied by Republicans. That means 22 of 49 Republican senators will be running.
Senator Wayne Allard, Republican of Colorado, has already announced plans not to seek re-election, setting the stage for a competitive race to succeed him. A handful of other Republicans, including Senator John W. Warner of Virginia and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, are said to be weighing retirement. Neither Mr. Warner nor Mr. Hagel have publicly committed to seek re-election.
Taking a look at the emphasized portion of the first paragraph, the math is pretty simple. There will be 34 Senate races going on. The GOP is defending 22 seats... the Democrats only a dozen. The less money you have to spend on defending the seats you hold, the more you have left over to mount a significant offensive against borderline incumbents in other states. Conversely, the more cash you are throwing at those seats, the more the opponent will have to spend to try to hang on to them, with the cash already being spread thin across so many races.
And where are the two parties starting from in terms of cash on hand?
Capitalizing on their new majorities and sunny prospects, House and Senate Democrats have trounced the Republicans in fund-raising during the first half of the year. The House Democratic campaign committee reported $19.5 million in cash and $4.1 million in debt at the end of June, compared with $2 million on hand and $4.3 million in debt at the House Republican committee.
The Senate Democratic campaign committee had $20.3 million in cash and $4.5 million in debt, compared with $5.8 million on hand with no debts at the Republican Senate committee.
This is stacking up to be very problematic for the Republicans. Nearly twice as many seats to defend in the Senate, and they are currently sitting on roughly one third as much cash.
Now, personally I am not a big fan of seeing either party getting a supermajority in Congress, certainly not in both houses. Regardless of which party holds the White House, that's simply too much of an invitation for extremism (which tends to pander toward the base) to run amok. At the current rate, though, the Dems seem to be on a roll and I wouldn't rule it out entirely. Cross your fingers if that happens, folks. I wouldn't trust the leadership of either of the current parties with that kind of unrestrained power.