The Danger Behind the Democratic Retirements

Bad news for Obama and his party.

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By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

You can't beat somebody with nobody. It's as true in politics as it is in sports, especially for Democrats, whose growing ranks of "nobody" could cede political ground and lead to major Republican gains in the House of Representatives next year.

On Monday, Rep. Bart Gordon, a Democrat from Tennessee and chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology announced that he will not seek reelection. Gordon is the fourth House Democrat in the past three weeks to make such an announcement, joining Washington Rep. Brian Baird, Kansas Rep. Dennis Moore and Tennessee Rep. John Tanner in lame duck status.

These are not good times to be a Democrat. The party is caught in a civil war on issues like Afghanistan and healthcare. Some of those who played a hand in President Barack Obama's historic victory are jumping ship, notably including MoveOn.org, which spends as much time targeting Democrats for purity as it does going after Republicans (And yet the media still wants to focus on/criticize "tea parties." But I digress.), and former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean who is reveling in his repayment to the administration for its shabby treatment of him. Even the Congressional Black Caucus, expected to be Obama's most stalwart of defenders is criticizing the president for what it sees as a failure to adequately address the concerns of African Americans.

Part of this is dealing with the difficulty of governing. With a Democrat in the White House and large majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats can no longer simply point to Republicans and expect voters to boo and hiss. They have to provide actual solutions, which, so far, is not happening. It's no wonder Republicans voters are united in opposition to Obama, support from Democrats is waning, and support from Independents is hemorrhaging.

So if you're a House Democrat from a tight swing district, or one Sen. John McCain carried comfortably, retirement is suddenly appealing.

It's something Martin Frost, a former Congressional Democrat and former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has suggested could be "contagious." It has been speculated that other House Democrats—names like Reps. Colin Peterson and John Spratt being just two that have been bandied about—might catch the bug, too.

We often hear that animals have an acute sense of impending doom. Who hasn't seen a nature documentary highlighting animals scurrying long before a man realizes anything is amiss? Politicians can be much the same way when it comes to their own survival.

It remains to be seen how bad things may get for Democrats, but with 10 of political analyst Stu Rothenberg's "Dangerous Dozen" being Democrats, it's clear troubling times are ahead. And if more Democrats do retire—putting the National Republican Congressional Committee one offense in more key Congressional districts—it will be because they know something we don't: their own internal poll numbers.

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