More GOP Retirements on the Way in the Senate?
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Oct 08, 2007 at 07:32:09 AM EDT
The number of Republican retirements in the Senate is up to five (assuming Larry Craig makes good on his decision not to run for reelection, where he didn't in his decision to resign from office). This number, combined with other key factors, makes it near impossible for the GOP to regain the majority in the chamber. But could more retirements be in the offing, thus increasing the Republicans' woes even more? One leading GOP politician, former Congressman and current Idaho Governor Butch Otter seems to think so.
We've now got five Republicans [retiring or resigning], and I guess there's a few more that may make a statement, from what [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell's told me. So there's more changes to be made there.
There is still quite a bit of time before the window of time in which members of Congress announce their retirements closes. Back in the 1994 cycle, for instance, the major wave of Democratic retirements, which foreshadowed the major losses the party suffered in that November's midterms, didn't occur until relatively late in the cycle -- January and February 1994. Even later that cycle, in April 1994, another four Southern Democrats announced their retirements, further decreasing the Democrats' chances. Similarly, during the 2004 cycle, Republican Senator Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell of Colorado didn't announce his intention to retire until March 2004. So it would be by no means unheard of were McConnell's assessment (via Otter) to be proved true.
Who within the Republican ranks still may announce their retirement? Ted Stevens of Alaska, who is already under federal investigation and whose approval rating has taken a real beating in recent months, is an obvious possibility. But what others? Folks like Tennessee's Lamar Alexander and North Carolina's Liddy Dole have been mentioned, the former due to speculation that he would move on to serve as president of Vanderbilt and the latter due to her unpopularity in the wake of her lack of success atop the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
But one other name I continue to look at is that of Mississippi's Thad Cochran. Now I know that Cochran's staffers have put out the word that he intends to seek another term, with a possible official announcement coming as soon as next month. I'll wait til I hear it from his lips, however. Already there's reason to believe Cochran's on his way out -- Arlen Specter at least implying that Cochran would retire -- and that came before most of these other retirements from the Senate Republican ranks. And a Cochran retirement could open up the door for the highly popular former Democratic state Attorney General Michael Moore to make a bid for Senate.
This all could be mixed messages or idle speculation. But if it's not, the Republicans' problems this cycle are only going to be getting worse.
Update [2007-10-8 14:57:1 by Jonathan Singer]: From David Kowalski in the comments...
Wikipedia has records of Senate retirements for each election from 1920 through 1906 (popular election of Senators did not exist until 1907 and by 1913 everybody had it due to a constitutional amendment).
Most Democratic retirees in one cycle: 6 (1996) Most Republican retirees in one cycle: 5 (1930, 1936,1948,1958,1996) Most total retirements in one cycle: 11 (1996) Most net retirements: 5 (1958).
Democrats won three seats of the five net GOP retirements in 1958 en route to a 16 seat cycle gain (Wikipedia includes a "gain" of 3 seats for Democrats from Alaska and Hawaii in this cycle; without it's still 13 seats).