REPUBLICAN RETIREMENT WATCH IN CONGRESS GROWS DRASTIC
Virginia wingnut Bob Goodlatte has one of the hardest jobs in Congress. He's head of the Republican incumbent retention program. Hapless NRCC Chair Tom Cole has charged him with keeping Republican members, already sick of minority status (and the relative difficulty collecting regular bribes), from resigning. Last year the NRCC enlisted Bush to pressure Planet Denny Hastert into not resigning. Hastert gave Bush another term. He isn't expected to do it again and, in all likelihood, a carpenter and Iraq vet, whose parents were missionaries, will be the next congressman from IL-14.
And Hastert is hardly the only problem facing Goodlatte in Illinois. Longtime Hastert ally, Ray LaHood, already served notice on the GOP last week that he's had it. And Don Manzullo (IL-16, Rockford and the extreme NW of the state) is likely to bail too. And Illinois is just part of the dire situation for the Republicans, who are unlikely to feel comforted by Rove's good cheer last week that if they can just not get caught stealing or having sex with children, they can probably weather the little Iraq kerfuffle and get re-elected.
Of course, Goodlatte's most immediate problem is one he has no sway over, what today's RollCall doesn't called the Republican Culture of Corruption.
Several Members with ethical woes also are on the retirement watch list, including GOP Reps. Rick Renzi (Ariz.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.), John Doolittle (Calif.) and Don Young (Alaska)-- all of whom are under federal investigation.
RollCall is so polite-- and they left out so many potential indictees, like Gary Miller (R-CA), Tom Feeney (R-FL), Virgil Goode, Jr. (R-VA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA)... so many more. But let's leave the potential felons for the police and concentrate on the ones who just want out on their own.
Most likely to leave, aside from the Illinois trio are the two Republicans who were at the heart of the scandal of the way our vets were mistreated at Walter Reed, C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL) and John McHugh (R-NY). Young's St. Petersburg Democratic-leaning district is unlikely to remain in GOP hands if he retires and McHugh's North Country district is also ready to say goodbye to the Republican Party forever, like so many upstate NY district's have since the national party took a sharp turn towards the extreme right in the last two decades.
Also on retirement watch are Ralph Regula (OH-16), the universally despised Barbara Cubin (WY), and Jo Ann Davis (VA). The other Virginia Davis, Tom, will likely leave his seat to run for the U.S. Senate if John Warner retires, which is likely. Davis will be soundly defeated by popular Democrat Mark Warner and his northern Virginia House seat will be lost to the Republicans.
Cole and Goodlatte are trying to put a best face forward but "privately, party strategists know they have some critical months ahead. September could be key for the GOP, as retirement announcements generally flourish after Members have spent the August recess back at home and have had down time to contemplate their futures. The state of the Iraq War by the fall also could have an impact on those deliberations. While not all retirements will produce competitive races, most open-seat contests end up costing the incumbent party some money."
That's a big problem for the Republicans; they don't have any. The NRCC under Cole is a disaster and in debt by millions of dollars. They won't be able to help any newcomers in open seats. Cole's Democratic counterpart, Chris Van Hollen is outraising him by a factor of 10. The DCCC has nearly $20 million in the bank and no debts. The NRCC has around $2 million and is loaded with debt after being forced to respond to Howard Dean's 50 state strategy and spend money on what were previously considered rock solid Republican districts in places like Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, etc.
Even an optimist like Mark Kirk (R-IL), who is likely to be defeated at the polls next year, feels that if the Republicans lose more seats-- plus, as looks likely, the presidency-- there will be an overwhelming rush for the exits.
Kirk said that while there could be a significant number of GOP retirements, he thought most Republicans were willing to wait to see the outcome of the 2008 race for the White House.
“Except for the really senior guys, most Members, I think, would like to serve at least at the start of a new presidency because they’d get to survey the lay of the land and understand who the new players are, and all of their future prospects are brighter if they’ve known and met the new team, and the new team could be very fun to work with,” Kirk said.
If you'd like to keep this ball bouncing in the right direction, let me point you to potential replacements for Planet Denny Hastert, John Doolittle, Randy Kuhl, and Mean Jean Schmidt, all of whom can use some assistance.