You know things are bad for Democrats whenever a newspaper reports that Republicans are pouncing or seizing on something. Well, things must look pretty bleak for Democrats in 2022 because today the NY Times published a story headlined “Why Democratic Departures From the House Have Republicans Salivating.”
In the past two months, five House Democrats from competitive districts have announced they won’t seek re-election next year. They include Representative Charlie Crist of Florida, who on Tuesday launched a campaign for governor, and Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman. Three other Democrats will leave vacant seats in districts likely to see significant change once they are redrawn using the data from the 2020 Census, and several more are weighing bids for higher office.
An early trickle of retirements from House members in competitive districts is often the first sign of a coming political wave…
This could be just the beginning of the Democratic departures: The high season for congressional retirements typically comes in early fall after members spend the August recess taking the political temperature of their districts.
So five departures isn’t that significant on its own but the fact that we already have this many months before the usual retirement season could be a sign of many more to come. And if that’s the case then you begin to set the conditions for a wave election, a red wave in this case.
And it’s not just retirements that have Democrats facing an uphill battle. The Census reapportionment process was also bad news for Democrats. Seven states including California, New York and Pennsylvania will lose a House seat while six states, including Texas, Florida and North Carolina will gain seats (Texas gains two). It’s a shift that is probably going to help Republicans. In fact, some have already connected former DCCC chair Cheri Bustos’ announcement she would be retiring to the loss of a seat in Illinois:
The big blow came last Friday, when Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, one of just seven Democrats who currently represents a district former President Donald Trump won in 2020, announced she would not run again. While Bustos didn’t mention redistricting — and the news that Illinois’ delegation will be forced to shrink by a seat before 2022 — it’s hard not see that, plus the fact that there was no obvious statewide office for her to run for, as contributing to her decision to step aside.
While Democrats control the line-drawing process in Illinois, it will be tough to draw a Democratic-friendly district in the western Illinois area that Bustos’ 17th district covers. (Trump won the 17th in 2020 and 2016.) Which could cost the party a seat that Democrats can ill afford to lose.
And speaking of redistricting, because Republicans control many more state legislatures, they will have control of drawing the new district maps necessitated by reapportionment. That alone could be enough to help them take back the House.
Finally, there’s the history of off year elections to consider:
According to Gallup, the average numbers of seats lost for a president’s party in a midterm election since 1946 is 25. Since World War II, the average seat loss is 23 for a president’s party in their first term.
Add all of this up and Democrats are really looking at an election that could put an end to their chances of passing any big initiatives for the rest of Biden’s term. Again, it’s still really early and a lot could change before next year but if you just listen to the people on both sides it’s pretty clear which way the wind is blowing:
“This is going to be like 2010, 2012, 2014 where we pick up seats because of Obama’s agenda,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), head of the Republican Senate’s campaign arm, said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Friday.
“Now what I talk about every day is do we want open borders? No. Do we want to shut down our schools? No. Do we want men playing in women’s sports? No. Do we want to shut down the Keystone Pipeline? No. Do we want voter ID? Yes,” he continued. “And the Democrats are on the opposite side of all those issues, and I’m going to make sure every American knows about it.”
Contrast that with what Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told Politico yesterday, “I don’t think people understand, writ large, how perilous 2022 is for holding on to the House.”