Michael Barone, dean of American politics, columnist for The Washington Examiner and co-author The Almanac of American Politics, has written two opinion articles in The Washington Examiner lately asking that question. Several House Democrats have announced that will not seek re-election. Of course, the stated reasons they give are never the reason. The real reason is almost always that their re-election chances look bleak.
No one knows politics in America like Michael Barone. There are 4300 or so counties in America and I think Michael Barone knows the Democrat-Republican lineup and the historical voting patterns in every one of them off the top of his head. This enables him to explain with particularity what a given Congressman’s fate in the next election is likely to be. Sure enough, those Democrats who have announced their retirement are facing tough elections next year. Most likely because of their votes in the House for the Democrats’ cap and trade bill and the Democrats’ government-run healthcare bill. The overall decline in Obama’s poll numbers and the disenchantment with Hope and Change is also a factor.
Many districts easily carried by Democrats in 2008 look to be in play for Republicans in 2010. This makes it likely Republicans will post gains in Congress in 2010, and some think Republicans may take over control of one or both houses of Congress.
So is this good news? For Republicans hoping to capture additional seats, it sure is. Of course, it is not good news for you if you favor Democrats generally, and/or the Democrats’ cap and trade and government-run health care. But wait, maybe it is good news for you if you want cap and trade and government-run healthcare to pass. The prospective loss of Democrat seats in Congress could end up making the Democrats’ cap and trade and Democrats’ government-run healthcare more not less, likely to pass yet this year or early next year. How so?
Well, the most leverage we sane people have over Democrat politicians is the specter that if they follow their leader Nancy Pelosi on Democrat cap and trade and Democrat government-run healthcare they will lose the next election given how unpopular both Democrat proposals are with the American people. But if they are not running for re-election the threat of losing their seat is gone. They’ve already decided to give it up anyway. They have little reason to care what the voters in their district want (Democrats seldom care about such things anyway except as it serves their own interest).
Republicans can be hopefully jubilant that many Democrats are announcing their retirement in the face of voter opposition to their radical ideas. While that may make it easier for Republicans to gain seats next year, it may also mean the Democrats’ radical ideas have an even greater chance of being enacted into law as a going-away thumb stick in the eye to the American people.
Michael Barone’s excellent and highly recommended further reading are here:
UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff at Powerlineblog appears to agree with me that Democrats who foresee poor prospects for their re-election in 2010 because of their support for the radical Democrat agenda may think they have nothing more to lose and may as well vote for all aspects of that agenda, making it more likely that some or all of it will be enacted despite its unpopularity among the electorate. Mirengoff first notes that Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln is trailing badly behind all of her potential Republican challengers and says:
Lincoln’s vote on the actual legislation — as opposed to whether to debate it — should tell us how she reads the situation back home. If Lincoln votes against the bill, it probably means she thinks she can win next year, not an outrageous assumption if she is only trailing by six percentage points now. If Lincoln votes “yes,” it probably means she is resigned to not being in the Senate after 2010, and has been promised a desirable post by the Obama administration.
Astute political analysis I think. You heard it here first.