On Friday Rep. Phil Roe, a TN Congressman, announced that he would not be running for reelection. Roe makes the 25th incumbent Republican member of Congress that has said they will not run for reelection in the next election—that’s well over 10% of the total sitting GOP members of the House. This is after the last Congressional election cycle, where there was another significant number of Congressmen and Senators who retired including seven committee chairs and the Speaker of the House.
If you are a Republican, that is worrisome for a couple of reasons. First, an incumbent always tends to have an advantage in an election due to name recognition, news coverage, etc… Last election cycle, the Democrats took back the majority in the House. That was more significant because when districts were re-drawn after the last census, Republicans controlled a large majority of state legislatures and so Congressional maps favored their party. That will not be nearly the case after the 2020 census and the next re-drawing of Congressional maps.
Secondly, it means that there is something that is driving senior members of the Party to retire and leave office. In the last election cycle, that included several committee chairs who were among the most powerful people in Congress and the Speaker of the House, who not only controlled the calendar and agenda of one House of Congress but, of course, was actually third in line to the Presidency.
All of these things are very unusual. If you are a Republican, you have to be wondering why. Or for that matter, if you are a Democrat you have to be wondering why, as well, but to a different end.
Prior to the last elections, Thinking Man ran a three-part series on the impact that President Trump would have on politics in general and the Republican Party, specifically. (link to part one of that series below). Among the predictions was that Trump would lead a significant decline in the Republican Party, to the point of extended minority status, at the minimum.
With two more years of history behind us now, including the House impeachment of President Trump, there is no reason to change that prediction. For partisans of both sides, remember this prediction is not a judgment of right or wrong necessarily, but of the politics of the Trump Presidency.
For those that bristle at that prediction, a look back at history may be insightful. When Bill Clinton was impeached-at that time only the second President in history to be impeached, on the surface he seemed to be vindicated when he won reelection. However, the Democratic Party became the minority party in the House of Representatives for the first time in several decades, they lost control of the Senate and saw massive losses at the state legislative level, as well. Though he personally survived the next election, as the leader of his Party Clinton presided over a decline in the Party that lasted for almost twenty years.
Thinking Man has predicted that Trump’s impact on the Republican Party would be similar. Even before the issue of impeachment arose recently, the large number of senior Party leaders leaving their jobs was the first evidence that Trump would lead the Party to significant decline over time. Prominent leaders of the Party continuing to leave office voluntarily reinforces that. And the fact that the next time that Congressional and legislative districts are redrawn in two years, they will be more favorable to the Democratic Party will give another push to that trend.
Time will tell, but looking at the politics of it, Republicans have reason to worry.