The surprise announcement by two moderate House Republicans that they are retiring this week has quickened the pulse of Republicans who fear a wave of retirements will jeopardize the party’s path to holding the House majority in 2018.
With Trump’s Chaotic presidency engulfed in endless controversies and the president’s approval rating hovering at a historic low, there’s concern among Republicans that lawmakers facing tough reelection campaigns might begin to take the road of least resistance and retire.
This week’s decisions by Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) to skip re-election bids in competitive districts have fanned speculation that the GOP will soon see more lawmakers heading for the exits.
“Trump has pretty much failed to be an able leader of pushing the Republican agenda for all these reasons, whether it’s an unfamiliarity with a lot of the policy debates or a lack of support for some of the policy objectives … That’s not a good place if you are thinking about the electoral prospects for the GOP in 2018,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, The Hill reports.
Dent, for his part, pointed Thursday to congressional gridlock as the main reason driving him to give up his seat.
“I’m frustrated by the polarization. Every basic task of governing becomes awfully difficult around here. Just keeping the government open or not defaulting. This is bad news for Republicans,” Dent told reporters.
“All these types of issues just become much heavier lifts,” Dent said, sighing. “And because we can’t do basics, we can’t get those down, it makes it difficult to take on the big issues of tax reform, infrastructure, healthcare.”
In order to flip the House, Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats. The path of least resistance includes victories in many of the 23 GOP-held districts that Hillary Clinton carried, and each retirement in those districts improves Democratic prospects.
Departures by moderates like Reichert, Dent and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who also announced her retirement, will also force Republicans to spend more money to keep the seats.
“It makes holding the majority that much tougher because those are tough seats. And those are very good candidates,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans’ campaign arm.
Dent, Reichert and Ros-Lehtinen all outperformed Trump in their districts in November, so their absence will be felt on the ballot.
“These open seats can be very vulnerable and difficult to hold,” Skelley said. “If this is the tip of the iceberg for retirements, that will be very bad for the GOP.”