GOP Retirement Woes

Article excerpt

Being in the congressional minority has never been the proverbial barrel of monkeys. Prospects of reversing the GOP's 2006 fall before at least 2010 seem dim, and a slew of retirements is making a bad situation worse for Republicans.

Even though Democrats hold the thinnest of Senate majorities, Republicans had viewed the House--with its 30 freshmen Democratic members--as their best opportunity to regain power. No more.

The GOP's comeback odds in the House have been taking a beating as retirements pile up and strong potential challengers save battle for another day.

"I think [retirements] make it incredibly more difficult" for Republicans, says Colby government professor L. Sandy Maisel. "The Democrats only have two or three freshmen who are seriously threatened ... so they really can have an offensive strategy."

A yawning fundraising gap fuels the Democrats' ability to play offense. After the third quarter of 2007, the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees combined reported over $51 million cash on hand, while their GOP counterparts had a shade under $10 million.

"Republicans are going to have to spread their resources very thin over a wide range of competitive races," says Dave Wasserman, House editor for The Cook Political Report. "Or it could mean that they draw back on the number of races that they target. The financial disparity allows Democrats to be bullies."

So Democrats will be able to staff up and make big, late media buys in the most competitive races.

Republican Targets

Wasserman says the party's funding advantage also lets them make serious plays for seats once considered safely Republican, like the Illinois seat recently vacated by former Rep. Dennis Hastert and the seat of Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn.

Another major Republican retirement is Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., the ranking member on the powerful Ways and Means Committee who also co-chaired CHOMP, a group that raises money for Republican challengers to Democratic incumbents.

In the Senate, the GOP is already defending 22 of 34 races. Six of those are key open seats like those of Sens. Wayne Allard of Colorado, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, and John Warner of Virginia. …