A lack of competitive open-seat House races in 2010 could complicate Republican efforts to fully maximize a favorable national environment and make large seat gains after back-to-back elections where the political winds were blowing in the opposite direction.
So far, 18 members have announced they are not seeking re-election in 2010 and are running for other office — but only six of those races are currently considered competitive. No member has yet announced an outright retirement, which is unusual; at this point in the 2008 cycle, 14 members had announced their retirement and five others were running for Senate.And first off, as Atrios asks, what current favorable national environment are they talking about? Yes, the conservative base is in an anti-Obama frenzy, but seeing as how they're all scary freaks, I fail to see how this is a good thing for Republicans.
And another thing, the article is misleading in that they mean to say that only six of the eighteen are Democratic districts, while the other twelve are open seats for Republican districts. In fact, based upon what it says elsewhere in the article, there are currently only three open seats in Democratic districts that are competitive for Republicans. Three. The basis for CQ's entire article rests upon three seats. Meanwhile, it mentions three Republican seats that Dems might easily pick up.
In other words, twice as many Republicans are retiring as Democrats, and both sides look like they can easily poach three seats from the other. And from this, we're to imagine that the political winds strongly favor Republicans and it's 1994 all over again; all evidence to the contrary.
Twelve is Bigger than Six
But even by the standards of the article, if only six of eighteen open election seats are competitive for Republicans, that would kind of indicate a bad thing for Republicans, as it would be an indicator that they're not very popular. And seeing as how this follows up five special elections this year in which Democrats won open seats, including a traditionally Republican district in New York, there would seem to be some indication that things aren't doing so well for Republicans. And when you throw in the long series of polls which show Republicans in the basement, it appears that Republicans are still relying on smoke & mirrors to appear strong and are set to lose their third straight election.
The article mentions the high number of retirements in 1994 and 2008, without understanding that the reason for the high number of retirements was because incumbents felt weak. The political climate caused the retirements; it wasn't coincidental to them. And conversely, if there are few retirements, it would indicate that incumbents feel strong. Even in the section I quoted above it mentions that this is a much different retirement situation than in 2008, in which nineteen Congressional retirements had been officially announced by this point, while none have been announced this year. And again, that would be a bad sign for Republicans and indicate that the political winds do not, in fact, favor them.
Yet the CQ article seems to see these as unrelated events, as if it's purely bad luck that Republicans aren't very competitive. Of course they're popular, because they say they're popular; too bad voters don't seem to realize it yet. And for as much as Republicans in the article insist that 2010 will be another 1994, anyone paying attention knows that these people always think it's 1994.
And of course, even the victory of '94 was vastly overrated. Not only have Republicans not recovered from the excesses of their hubris, but they still haven't hit bottom yet. As a reminder, they had losses in the two congressional elections following '94, despite Republican predictions to the contrary. Perhaps after another defeat they'll finally enter a true "wilderness" phase and figure out what they're doing wrong. But more likely, they'll just double-down on the crazy and insist that their luck is changing.