After Obey, Do Retirements Threaten Dems?

17 so far, but 20 on the Republican side

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Wisconin Rep. David Obey's announcement that he will retire brings the number of vacating Democrats in the House to 17, compared with 20 such Republicans. But with Democrats facing what most analysts predict will be a very difficult election cycle in November, and party leaders fretting about holding on to their majority, how worried should they be about retirements?

  • Every Retirement Makes a Difference  With the margins so close, warns NBC News' Domenico Montanaro, Democrats should worry about every Congressman who retires in a swing district. "Projections for this fall's midterm show Republicans poised to make big gains in the House, perhaps coming close to or even taking over control of the House. Republicans need 40 seats to win control."
  • 'Troubling,' But Averted Disaster  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says that while the trend "should be troubling for party strategists, the predictions of a flood of Democratic retirements in the wake of Sen. Scott Brown's (R-Mass) victory on January 19 have not yet come to fruition." If this holds, "Democrats will have avoided the doomsday situation many painted for them following Brown's win in Massachusetts but they are far from out of the woods."
  • No Democratic Exodus  Hotline's Amy Walter deflates the fears. "Despite the hand wringing around DC this morning that [Obey's] retirement will open the floodgates for more high-profile Dem retirements, the reality is that there aren't many 'surprises' left. Talk of an 'exodus' of Dem retirements after the health care vote, it hasn't happened -- and it won't," she writes. The majority of districts have closed filing, which means that retirements would have announced by now. "And, frankly, there just aren't that many potential retirees left."
  • Why Retirements Matter Long-Term  GOP Strategist Patrick Ruffini looks to districts where the GOP might be popular but a Democratic incumbent can hold on to the seat for years. Ruffini calls retirements "our best means of forcing change on these districts." However, "those can come all too slowly." Ruffini reminds us that although it can take decades for an entire Congress to cycle, everyone eventually retires, dies, or is voted out.
  • Obey: I'm Retiring Because of Senate  Many House Democrats have expressed anger at the Senate, where the slim majority and unusual rules mean that some key pieces of legislation, such as health care, have been crafted to pass the Senate, making the House's efforts less relevant. Now Rep. Obey has cited that as a reason for his retirement, raising the possibility that other House Democrats will throw in the towel because of Senate intransigence. Obey wrote in his retirement announcement: "All I do know is that there has to be more to life than explaining the ridiculous, accountability destroying rules of the Senate to confused, angry, and frustrated constituents."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.