Berry follows a line of Democrats in similar districts to retire this year: fellow Arkansas Rep. Vic Snyder had been the latest, after Reps. John Tanner (TN), Bart Gordon (TN), and Dennis Moore (KS) announced their retirements beginning with Moore in November.
Berry was facing a race rated by the Cook Political Report as R+8, though he had won reelection unopposed in 2008. Hotline OnCall reports that Berry's only GOP challenger had been Rick Crawford, a TV and radio agriculture reporter who had raised just $38,000 so far, though Republicans aren't settled on him as a candidate. With Berry retiring, that primary will likely get more competitive. An assorted lineup of Democrats, including Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, could get in the race to replace Berry.
The retirement is just what Republicans were looking for after Scott Brown's upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race. On a call with bloggers last week, a National Republican Congressional Committee official posed Democratic retirements as a potential fallout from that race.
Part of the story of Massachusetts, the official said, was "who's going to wake up and say I don't want to do this" anymore among Democratic ranks, given an electoral climate that looked inhospitable.
Democrats will be defending a handful of Southern districts in 2010 that, while they voted Republican in the 2008 presidential race, have shown a proclivity to reelect their Democratic representatives to office; one of the storylines in those races will be whether voters follow their presidential-voting tendencies, or whether Democrats can muster strong enough candidates and campaigns to keep those districts legislatively Democratic.