‘It’s Starting To Feel Like 2006’: Republicans Fleeing Town As Fear Of a Blue Tsunami Grows
You can almost feel it. It’s going to be big. And Republicans know it. In fact, for the GOP, it’s starting to feel like 2006, a wave election year that swept Democrats back into power in the House and Senate. So they are fleeing town.
The retirement of two prominent California Republicans this week — just the latest in a string of House Republicans heading for the exits — has caused panic among some in the GOP who say it’s yet another sign that an anti-Trump, Democratic Tsunami is forming.
“It’s a tough election cycle for Republicans; we know that going in,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who is not running for reelection after representing a heavily Hispanic Miami district for nearly 30 years.
“It’s starting to feel very scary for moderate Republicans,” she said.
Rep. Darrell Issa, who barely won reelection by a slim 1,621-vote margin in 2016, said Wednesday that he’s leaving Congress, despite insisting for months that he was running for reelection.
The surprising announcement from the former Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman came just two days after another veteran Republican from Southern California, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, also called it quits.
The House GOP is now forced to decide whether it will defend two districts that overwhelmingly voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 or shift resources elsewhere.
But Republicans have other reasons to be worried about the elections, including Donald Trump’s approval rating, which sits in the 30s.
“The Trump symbol, the Trump brand and Mr. Trump himself is a drag on the ticket,” Ros-Lehtinen said, according to The Hill. “In districts like mine, it doesn’t help the Republican candidate.”
The wave of GOP retirements in competitive districts also has set off alarm bells among some senior Republican strategists.
“I’m alarmed, but we should have already been alarmed. It’s a tough environment, and there’s a chance the Republicans can lose control of the House,” said GOP political strategist Scott Jennings.
“It’s starting to feel like 2006 to me,” he added, “which was a bad year for Republicans.”
Democrats picked up 31 House seats in 2006, a victory that propelled them forward to win complete control of Washington in 2008.
This year, House Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats to win back the majority. And the path to that new majority runs right through Orange County and San Diego, where traditional Republican districts like Royce’s and Issa’s have been getting more diverse and trending bluer.
Other top Democratic targets in Southern California include GOP Reps. Mimi Walters, Steve Knight and Dana Rohrabacher, a lawmaker whose ties to Russia are receiving extra scrutiny amid the investigations into 2016 election meddling.
“You can’t hold this majority if you lose California districts because California districts look like suburban Pennsylvania districts and New Jersey [swing] districts,” explained Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) during the successful 2014 and 2016 cycles.
“It’s a big concern,” a GOP aide said of the pair of California retirements. “These Orange County seats are majority makers.
“I hope [Rohrabacher] retires,” the aide added. “That’s a seat that can be held.”
But other retirements certainly aren’t helping the GOP. In addition to Issa, Royce and Ros-Lehtinen, moderate Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Dave Trott (R-Mich.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) are not seeking reelection, providing more pick-up opportunities for Democrats.
The Cook Political Report, a campaign handicapper in Washington, moved Royce’s seat from “lean Republican” to “lean Democratic” this week; it moved Issa’s seat from “toss up” to “lean Democratic.”
Democratic voters, however, are not taking anything for granted and have vowed to show up in masses to the polls.