Analysts look at the number of senators and representatives who choose to leave Congress as an indicator of how the political winds are blowing for the upcoming congressional elections. For Democrats looking ahead to the 2010 contests, the outlook is anything but bright.
The Examiner’s Michael Barone has in recent weeks chronicled the lengthening parade of House Democrats deciding not to seek re-election. Judging by voter attitudes on major issues and their voting intentions as measured by generic ballot surveys, it looks like 2010 is going to be a very tough year for incumbents generally, but especially so for Democrats.
Among the Democrats Barone has spotlighted are Reps. Dennis Moore of Kansas, John Tanner and Bart Gordon of Tennessee, Brian Baird of Washington and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii. Abercrombie is leaving the House early in order to campaign for governor, but the other four, whose districts all have been trending toward Republicans, are simply retiring. Tanner and Gordon especially are noteworthy as less-liberal Blue Dog Democrats who have found life “challenging” under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In addition to retirements, there are many Democrats in serious danger of defeat. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada currently trails both Republicans seeking to challenge him. Reid, with Pelosi, is most closely associated with President Barack Obama’s agenda, but he’s vastly better funded than either of his expected GOP opponents and can legitimately claim that Nevadans benefit from his highly visible national political profile.
Similarly, Rep. Dina Titus, in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, is having a hard time maintaining a slim lead over her expected GOP challenger, despite the clear advantages of incumbency and an eight-point Democratic advantage in voter registration in her district.
In pollster Scott Rasmussen’s continuing survey of voters’ party preferences for Congress, Republicans have led Democrats for four straight months.
Even though the Republican lead has been reduced to only four points in the most recent results, it’s clear the GOP has an advantage in a two-way race against Democrats. Combine all of this with Obama’s historically low public approval rating, and you can expect more Democrats to decide the time has come for them to leave Congress and quit while they’re ahead.