A medium-term landslide is not yet a sure thing

Michigan Representative Fred Upton announced Monday that he will not run for the US House of Representatives again this year. Upton had many reasons. He is the fourth Republican to have voted to impeach former President Donald Trump to retire, though he denies it is the reason. Thanks to the reallocation, he would have faced another incumbent Republican, Bill Huizenga, in a new district that only slightly overlaps his old one. Republican term limits may also have been a factor: Upton served as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee for six years, beginning in 2011 — but he had to step down from the gavel in 2017 at the start of unitary Republican government, and he’d presumably get that job next year not again. In any case, Upton will be 69 later this month, so he’s hardly retiring young. When I last wrote about the House of Representatives stepping down, there was a huge party imbalance, with 18 Democrats and only four Republicans heading toward the exits without running for office. That’s what you’d expect in an election cycle when almost everyone expects Republicans to win a majority in the House of Representatives. However, some evidence pointed to other possibilities. The outgoing Democrats were unusually old, even for House Democrats, suggesting some of them had simply reached a natural retirement age. It’s also true that six of the seven outgoing senators (including Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is stepping down mid-term) are Republicans, and an equal number from both parties (eight each) are leaving the House to run for higher office. Meanwhile, recent retirements differ from those earlier in the cycle. The last 10 resignations are evenly split between the parties, pushing the ratio from 18T/4R to a slightly less dramatic 23D/9R. Still one-sided, but less so, especially considering the Senate side. On the other hand, recent Democrat resignations are much younger than the earlier ones, with an average age of just 61 at the start of the next Congress compared to an average of 71 for the first 18. The point that Democrats are leaving for different reasons than the Fears of a Republican landslide might be a bit weaker at this point. While we have seen a handful of additional retirements, we are nearing the end as many submission deadlines have passed and nearly all new district lines have been completed. Only a single member of the House of Representatives announced his resignation as of April 2020 and only three in 2012, the last general election year. So while it’s possible things could change at the last minute, perhaps the biggest development since mid-January is something that hasn’t happened: a spate of Democrats getting out. Without this, the number of Democrats exiting is fairly modest for a new election cycle, with the very small number of Republicans exiting a little more unusually resource — during the 2022 election cycle. That this has happened despite President Joe Biden remaining unpopular and the Conventional wisdom being even more fixed on likely Republican wins suggests that a landslide will be a bottom-up event driven by anti-Biden voters, rather than a top-down event of defeat , caused by Democrat disorder, hostility toward their own incumbents, or just plain fatigue. Sure: If Biden remains unpopular, the Democrats will suffer in November. But if not, I don’t see strong evidence of an already built-in Republican landslide.

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