News from the Votemaster
They're dropping like flies. Another (Republican) member of the House has announced he will not run for reelection in November. This time it is Rep. Jim Walsh of Syracuse-based NY-25. Walsh has been in the House for 20 years, but he's a kid, really (turned 60 last June), at least by congressional standards. Why is he quitting? Who knows, but he won by the skin of his teeth (less than 2%) in 2006 against a Democratic opponent, Dan Maffei, who had never before run for public office. Maffei, much more experienced now, is running for the seat again in a district with a PVI of D+3 and which Bush lost twice. It could be that Walsh saw the handwriting on the wall and didn't want to spend a year campaigning and then losing.
The number of representatives elected in 2006 who will not be running in 2008 has now hit 29, a very high number. Six are Democrats, and all of them are in safe districts. It is doubtful that any serious Republicans will even challenge them in what is expected to be another Democratic year. The situation with the 23 Republicans is very different, as illustrated in the table below. Three of them, James Saxton, Heather Wilson, and Walsh are from districts that lean Democratic. Those are going to tough for Republican challengers to crack. The power of incumbency can often hold a candidate in a district that normally favors the other party, but in an open seat with equally matched opponents, holding a seat in the other guy's territory is hard.
There are another 12 districts with a PVI ranging from R+1 to R+7. All of these are going to be competitive, obviously with the R+1 and R+2 districts at the top of the list since they are essentially split evenly.
To recapture the House, the Republicans need to hold all their own seats (which will be virtually impossible) and knock off 16 sitting Democrats. That would be a tall order under any conditions, but in a year when Democrats are energized, Republicans are demoralized, and the country wants change, it will be especially difficult. What makes this very, very problematic is the money situation. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the DCCC had $30 million in the bank as of early January. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the NRCC had $2 million (and debts of more than $2 million). Basically, Van Hollen is loaded and Cole is broke. Van Hollen has already announced about 40 priority districts he wants to pick up. He can afford to dump half a million dollars in each one and still have $10 million for emergency use. Half a million dollars is peanuts in the presidential race, but a lot of money for a House race (the median bank account for incumbents was about $400,000 a couple of months ago). Cole is trying to recruit rich businessmen who can finance their own races, but historically, such candidates generally lose when running against an experienced politician, usually a state senator or assemblyman or the mayor of a big city in the district. All in all, the Republicans have a massive problem on their hands with respect to the House. They could easily lose another 10+ seats, and the chances of their taking back control there are pretty dismal.
That said, there may be more Republican retirements. Congressmen who knew power and now see that are going to be in the minority for the foreseeable future may decide to retire. As more retire, the chance of regaining the majority gets less, leading to a downward spiral.
Here is the list of people elected in 2006 who are not running in 2008. The districts marked that are highlighted (and hyperlinked) are having special elections to fill the seat shortly.
In response to popular demand, Ron Paul will now be tracked along with the other Republicans. The real reason for not doing this originally was not ideological but graphical--each poll was already taking up its alloted 1024 pixels. Since Paul, Keyes, Kucinich, Gravel and the like were not likely to win the nomination, they weren't included. With Thompson out of the race, some pixels were freed up and of the remaining contenders, Paul is the pick of the litter so he inherits Thompson's pixels until he gives up (unlikely, since he is raising gobs of money) or until the fat lady sings.
Dennis Kucinich is out of it. Out of the presidential race, that is. He has no chance of getting the Democratic nomination and would be clobbered in the general election if he got it, but has an excellent chance of keeping his seat in the House. He probably didn't want to be embarrassed by the Feb. 5 results. In contrast, Mike Gravel (Mike Who?) is soldiering on.
The Democrats hold their primary in South Carolina tomorrow. Obama seems to be heading towards a win. Hillary better cry tomorrow like in New Hampshire or Obama is going to win this one.
CNN is keeping track of the delegates for the Democrats and for the Republicans. Note that other sources may differ because CNN is trying to count the PLEOs (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) and when different reporters call a PLEO and hear "Well, I like Hillary, but Barack has his charms too" they may score it differently. Here is CNN's count:
-- The Votemaster