This morning, Politico's Alex Isenstadt reported that Democrats are thinking of giving up on recapturing the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections, focusing instead on defending their advantage in the Senate. Better to pool resources and hold on to one chamber, the Bismarckian thinking goes, than launch a two-front war and lose both. Especially when the prospects for a House takeover are so slim, it seems unwise to risk two years where President Obama is a lame duck.
Naturally, Democratic spokesmen are pushing back on the idea that they're folding their hand, insisting they're in it to win it, etc. But today's announcement that Henry Waxman, the long-serving, staunchly liberal representative from California, intends to retire after 20 terms lends Isenstadt's report credence: If Waxman thought Democrats were on the verge of winning back the House, he wouldn't be retiring now. (In fact, as David Freddoso notes, Waxman wrote a blog post about why he was planning to run again in early December.)
Waxman has never been shy about trying to grasp chances at power. He has been a congressional crusader on health issues and climate change. In 2009, he broke protocol and challenged John Dingell—long the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee—for the chair's gavel, because Dingell was seen as soft on environmental issues. Waxman won on a 137-122 vote, though many of his colleagues tut-tutted the maneuver. But Waxman showed why he was in a hurry within months, shepherding a cap-and-trade bill through the House in June. The bill later died in the Senate.