Saturday, September 09, 2017

Lots Of Retirements By Incumbents Always Precede A Political Tsunami-- Most Recent: Charlie Dent


Leading his party to doom and destruction

Before you get a political tsunami that wipes out your party, you get ripples-- entrenched swing state incumbents in the tough seats start announcing their retirements. This year the first to throw in the towel was Ileana Ros Lehtinen-- first elected in 1989 and never seriously challenged in an increasingly blue district because her crony Debbie WassermanSchultz always protected her. The 2006 Almanac of American Politics listed her South Florida district's PVI at R+4. She had drawn the boundaries herself in the state Senate. A decade later, the 2016 Almanac of American Politics rated the same district-- no longer FL-18, but FL-27-- as a PVI R+2. McCain had beaten Obama there 51-49% in 2008 but Obama turned it around in 2012 and won the district 53-47%. Last year Hillary eviscerated Trump there-- 58.5% to 38.9%, Hillary's best performance in a Republican-Held congressional district anywhere in the country. That and Wasserman Schultz's loss of power within the Democratic Party was the writing on the wall for Ros-Lehtinen. When the new PVI for the district came out-- D+5 (an unprecedented swing)-- she announced her impending retirement. The DCCC has never fought an election there are has no idea how to win the district, so in a non-tsunami year, the GOP would have a chance to hold the district. But in 2018? Not even DCCC bumbling will save this seat for them.

Ros Lehtinen is a mainstream conservative and she was just the first of her breed to face the bitter reality. Next came Dave Reichert in WA-08, most of whose voters live in the suburbs of Seattle and Tacoma. Reichert was first elected in 2004, the same year Kerry beat Bush in the district 51-48%. 4 years earlier, Gore had beaten Bush there 49-47%. The PVI in the 2006 Almanac of American Politics listed WA-08 as D+2. Reichert proved popular and he hung on as Obama beat McCain 51-47% and then beat Romney 50-48%. Last year, Hillary beat Trump 47.7% to 44.7%, though the district had been slightly rejiggered and was sporting an R+1 PVI. The new PVI, though, is an ominous "EVEN." Reichert was considered fairly safe but in a tsunami year... the calculations for that Beltway safety are mostly moot. The Democrats will have more than half a dozen candidates vying for the nomination in the jungle primary. The district is no slam dunk for an incompetent and bumbling DCCC but if a good candidate emerges in this district that went overwhelmingly for Bernie, we should see a flip blue there.

And then Thursday, came the third mainstreamer calling it quits: Charlie Dent. His Lehigh Valley district-- including both Bethlehem and Allentown-- had a PVI of D+2 right after he was elected in 2004. Both Gore and Kerry had won the district, albeit very narrowly and by 2014 the PVI had slipped to R+2. Obama still managed to bet McCain, 52-47%, but in 2012, Romney took the district 51-48%. Hillary expected to win but she came nowhere near Obama's numbers and Trump out-performed Romney. Trump won 51.8% to 44.2%. In 2014 the Democrats didn't even bother running a candidate against Dent and in 2016 the DCCC ignored Rick Daugherty's challenge entirely. He spent $21,560 against Dent's $1,746,125. That's how the DCCC was looking at the "swingyness" of PA-15. In any but a wave election, the district would have to be seen as having swung too far into red territory for the DCCC to handle. The PVI is now R+4.

There are 5 counties that make up PA-15-- Leigh, Northampton, Lebanon, Dauphin and Berks. It wasn't Bernie country. Hillary and Trump dominated the primaries and in the general Trump was viewed as the lesser evil. Democrats can't count on this one for a flip but with Dent out of the picture they have at least a theoretical shot at it.

Far right-wing nut and Trumpist, state Rep. Justin Simmons had already thrown his MAGA hate into the primary ring earlier in the week with this anti-Dent ad:

Dent was the chairman of the centrist Tuesday Group. His formal retirement announcement will come tomorrow in Allentown.
In a district that has become more Republican-leaning during his tenure but still is viewed as a potential swing seat, Dent has drawn a reputation as someone liked by both sides of the aisle. In his general elections, he’s been bolstered by support from Democrats and independents.

His decision Thursday drew reactions of shock and expressions of praise from both Democrats and Republicans, many of whom caused his phone to continually buzz with text messages and calls as the congressman headed to a round of evening House votes.

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez described Dent as a good congressman who works across the aisle and served the Lehigh Valley well.

“I may not have always agreed with him on every issue, but he was accessible and worked really hard,” said Donchez, a Democrat.

State Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, who represents the district that Dent held during his tenure in the state Senate, said he was caught off guard by Dent's decision. He has known Dent since childhood, and described him as someone unlikely to be frightened by a primary challenger.

"I can say unequivocally, with 100 percent certainty, that's not the case," Browne said. "I know Charlie. It would not be because of a campaign by Justin Simmons."

Dent said that with his exit, he expects “serious, credible Republican candidates” to announce campaign bids for what he expects will be a competitive race.

National Democrats said they’re aiming to take advantage of the opportunity. Evan Lukaske, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said they “are confident that a strong candidate will step up to run and represent the people of the 15th Congressional District in November.”

While Dent may be leaving his post after next year’s election, the outspoken legislator doesn’t sound like he’ll be quieting down after that. He said he hasn’t given much thought yet to his exact plans for his next phase, but said he wants to remain part of discussions on where his party is headed.

“I think we need to bring a stronger voice to the sensible center, of not only our party but of the country,” Dent said. “Both political parties are in a pretty bad place right now and I want to be part of that conversation but maybe from a different seat, from the outside.”
You'll know the Republican mainstreamers see the congressional party really collapsing when we see retirement announcements from folks like Erik Paulsen (MN), Fred Upton (MI), Leonard Lance (NJ), Bruce Poliquin (ME), John Katko (NY), Jeff Denham (CA), Lee Zeldin (NY), Mike Simpson (ID), Martha McSally (AZ), Dan Newhouse (WA), David Valadao (CA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), John Faso (NY), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Ryan Costello (PA), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Tom Reed (NY), Paul Cook (CA), Dan Donovan (NY), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), David Joyce (OH), Pat Meehan (PA), Mike Turner (OH), Peter King (NY), Tim Murphy (PA)... That would signal a real realignment in Congress-- mainstream versus neo-Nazis. Could happen; but still way to early to predict any of these members are seriously considering retirement.

Josh Kraushaar wrote something smart for the National Journal yesterday about the retiring Republicans. "The decisions to step down by Reps. Dave Reichert of Washington and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania expanded an already-growing map of vulnerable GOP seats next year. Neither seat was on The Cook Political Report’s list of most competitive races, given the incumbents’ impressive track records back home. Dent’s retirement turned his seat from a near-Republican lock to one that 'will be in the thick of the battle for control of the House,' as The Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman wrote. With Reichert’s departure, his district shifted from solidly Republican to pure toss-up. Such drastic shifts don’t happen often... Trump’s scattershot approach to governing-- not to mention his historically low approval ratings-- has driven these rank-and-file Republicans to depart. In a statement announcing his decision, Dent referred himself as part of the 'governing wing' in Washington and took a swipe at 'outside influences that profit from increased polarization.' One of Reichert’s last comments before retiring was decrying Trump’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals decision as 'not in the American DNA.' Since retiring, Ros-Lehtinen has loudly slammed President Trump for his record on gay rights, race relations, and treatment of immigrants."
“Trump is fracturing the party to the point where the risk of wholesale retirements and resignations will be high from mainstream lawmakers who came to Washington to do business,” said one senior GOP strategist. “The people who got into public service because they had a successful life, wanted to have rational conversations with rational people on a regular basis, and are now finding the idea of coddling activists around Trump’s daily Twitter habits not very appealing.” Already, Republicans are bracing for additional pivotal retirements. The GOP watch list includes two swing-district members from Michigan: Reps. Fred Upton, the former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Dave Trott, a junior lawmaker from suburban Detroit. Trump carried both their districts, but these R+4 seats (according to the Cook Report’s Political Voting Index) would be vulnerable in a Democratic wave.

With every Republican retirement from a competitive district, the GOP math of holding its House majority becomes increasingly difficult. Retirements both serve as a signal that the political environment is bad, while also opening up opportunities for the opposition that hadn’t existed before. Name-brand members of Congress can win under tough circumstances, but it’s exceptionally difficult for lesser-known recruits-- even the most talented among them-- to run against punishing political headwinds.

But the issue of whether Republicans can maintain power in 2018 feels secondary to the more consequential long-term development-- that the ideological disposition of elected Republicans is changing before our very eyes. Most of the Republicans who are leaving politics feel like throwbacks to a bygone era-- more serious about governing than showboating. Meanwhile, the next generation of Republican candidates are more likely to be running in the image of Trump-- substance-free, needlessly confrontational, and playing to a hardcore base. When Trump loyalists characterize House Speaker Paul Ryan as a squishy RINO, it’s clear that antiestablishment forces care more for revolutionary zeal than party affiliation.

It’s no secret why Republican leaders have been working tirelessly for years to prevent such candidates from emerging in primaries. But with a president egging on nihilistic elements, it’s becoming a thankless undertaking. If the pace of congressional retirements accelerates, it’s not just the House majority that will be at risk. It’s the future of the Republican Party.
Future MSNBC contributor and Trump critic

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At 6:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Rs moving further right is not a tsunami. It's been a beach erosion that has gone on since Goldwater lost and Nixon became their point man.

Sadly, mirroring that erosion has been the Ds since about 1978 or so. The Rs move 2 steps right, the Ds follow a step behind.

The tsunami has been all political movement and parties have swept everything out to sea that used to be left and center. There ain't no left nor center no more.

And, yes, with this guy, all the Rs with a shred of conscience would be more likely to just walk rather than play along.

So you say there are 3 so far? does that say something about the "quality" of the Rs? Just 3!!

Too bad democraps haven't even shown even that much conscience as Pelosi and scummer plot another losing cycle.

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

I'm with you DWT i can't see this tsunami happening with the Blue Dogs, New Dems & their donors in the DCCC in charge they've bungled every electoral opportunity with their crappy candidates & not contesting these seats their position is status quo & it'll stay that way until all of them are replaced.


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