This week, three veteran GOP House members decided not to run for re-election in 2020. That makes a total of eight House Republicans who have so far announced their retirement.
In 2018, 37 GOP members declined to run — a fact that many analysts say contributed to the Republicans losing the House. The number of retirements with a year and a half to go before the 2020 election has many party leaders worried.
Three popular and well-respected members of Congress decided they weren’t going to run for reelection. Michigan Rep. PAUL MITCHELL, Texas Rep. PETE OLSON and Alabama Rep. MARTHA ROBY all said they were calling it quits. Republicans say they lost the House because of too many retirements last cycle, yet they are seeing a steady stream of lawmakers forgo reelection once again.
GUT PUNCHES: Roby is the second female House Republican to call it quits. There are just 13 House Republican women. … The Olson district — anchored south and southwest of Houston — is going to become one of the toughest fought seats this cycle.
— MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER: “The 2nd congressional district is heavily Republican, rated R+16 by the Cook Political Report. But its future is as doubtful as the post-2020 congressional map for Alabama. The state is expected to lose a congressional seat following next year’s Census, a development that would necessitate new boundaries. That could force incumbents into fights with each other, if none decide to step aside in the 2022 elections.” Montgomery Advertiser
Republicans have targeted 44 Democratic seats they see as vulnerable in 2020. Out of those seats, 17 were were won by Dems with less than a 5% margin of victory. Many of those seats flipped by the narrowest of margins.
Historically, many freshmen congressmen who represent districts that were formerly held by the opposing party will struggle to hold on to their seats in the next two elections. Republicans see these districts— many won by Donald Trump in 2016 by double digits — as ripe pickings.
But in order to win back the House, Republicans need to win 17 seats. That means that they can ill afford to lose a district that would have been represented by a veteran congressman. That’s why retirements are so critical in the GOP drive to win back the House.
One thing is certain: Republicans are going to have to do a much better job of recruiting candidates. Most analysts judged GOP efforts in that regard as poor in 2018. It becomes even more important when choosing a candidate who can flip a Democratic district.
Many high-profile state and local Republicans refused to run in 2018, knowing it was going to be a Democratic year. But with Democrats appearing to self-destruct on numerous issues, the climate for Republicans to run has vastly improved.
The effect of Trump at the top of the ticket in 2020 has yet to be determined. He will certainly help in many districts, but his impact on races in swing districts is unknown. That’s why so much depends on the GOP recruiting top-flight candidates who will be well funded.