News from the Votemaster
Today's topic is retirement. For the latest Presidental polling data, click here. No, this is not about anybody's position on social security; it is about Congressional retirements. In every cycle there are always a few senators and representatives who have had enough and announce that they are not running for reelection. Such open seats are very important given that the releection rate for incumbents is well over 90%. Seats switch parties for two reasons: (1) a seat becomes open due to a retirement or death, or (2) the incumbent is caught up in a scandal of some kind. Consequently open seats are very important, as they may flip, especially in swing districts. One popular way to measure the swinginess of a congressional district is Charlie Cook's Partisan Voting Index, which tells how much more Democratic or Republican a district is than the country as a whole, as measured by the last two presidential elections. Thus D+3 means the district is 3% more Democratic than the national average. In such an unstable electoral environment as we have now, any district between D+9 and R+9 has to be considered a swing district. Starting today, the House page will list the PVI of each district listed.
So far we have five retirements in the Senate and 19 in the House, with more expected. All the Senate retirements are Republicans and 16 of the 19 House retirements are Republicans. These numbers mean that the Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity to pick up a few more Senate seats and perhaps another dozen or more House seats. It is not a coincidence that most of the retirements are Republicans. When a party is in the minority, with little hope of regaining the majority in the next election, many members of that party get discouraged and decide that politics is a lot less fun than when they had real power.
Let us look at the Senate first, then the House. Wayne Allard (R-CO) promised he would serve only two terms and kept his promise. This race will feature Bob Schaffer (R), who lost the 2004 Republican senatorial primary, against Rep. Mark Udall (D). Many Colorado Republicans feel Schaffer is too far to the right. Udall is the favorite here.
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) is retiring after being caught in a wide stance in a Minneapolis airport mens room. There will undoubtedly be a ferocious Republican primary and the winner of it will be elected to the Senate.
Former senator Bob Kerrey's decision not to run for a third term means that the winner of the Mike Johanns vs. Jon Bruning primary will almost assuredly win and hold the seat for the GOP.
Sen. Pete Domenici is retiring in part due to brain disease but mostly due to his being embroiled in a scandal in which he tried to pressure a U.S. attorney to prosecute Democrats for political reasons (if a malfunctioning brain was sufficient reason to retire from Congress, the place would be rather depopulated). Rep. Tom Udall, Mark's cousin, may run, and if so, will probably be the favorite against the winner of the Heather Wilson vs. Steve Pearce Republican primary. A wild card here is Bill Richardson. If he does very poorly on superduper Tuesday (Feb. 5, 2008), he might decide to give up on being president and run for the Senate seat, for which he would be the odds-on favorite. The filing deadline for the Senate is Feb. 12, 2008.
Sen. Warner is retiring in Virgina after a long and distinguished career. He will be replaced by Sen. Warner--only it is Mark instead of John. Former governor Mark Warner (D) is expected to win in a landslide over former governor Jim Gilmore (R).
Now on to the House. Here we have a mixed bag of retirements. A few are due to age, a few others are due to scandals. In other cases, a representative is running for higher office. In a few cases, the incumbent was probably put under very heavy pressure by his or her party (translation: we will fund a primary challenger). An example of the latter is Rep. Barbara Cubin (R WY-AL). In 2006 she threatened to hit a guy in a wheelchair and consequently was relected by under 1000 votes--in a hugely Republican state. Her 2006 opponent, Gary Trauner, is running again, and she would probably have lost this time due to his increased experience and credability. So it is likely that one of the party elders had a little man-to-woman chat with her and pointed out what a wonderful place Wyoming is to spend your retirement years in. Now the GOP can find a less tainted candidate and will almost certainly hold the seat.
The Republican woes in the House are compounded by the money situation. The DCCC, headed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland has $20 million in the bank to help out in tough races for the House. The NRCC, headed by Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, has $2 million in the bank (and debts of $4 million). He has pretty much conceded he can't help GOP candidates much and is looking for rich businessmen who can fund their own campaigns as candidates. The problem with this strategy is that historically, self-funded candidates with no political experience rarely win.
All in all, the three seats being vacated by Democrats are probably safe, but all the Republican seats except in Alabama, Mississippi, and Wyoming will be hotly contested. Even Tancredo's seat will be a bitter fight as Colorado has been trending blue in recent years and the Democrats picked up a Republican House seat in 2006.
This page is the prototype for 2008. The data and map will refer to previous elections until serious polls begin in 2008. The blog will be updated when there is interesting news about the 2008 races.Preview of the 2008 races: President Senate House
This map shows the current governors. Put your mouse on a state for more information.
This map shows the current Senate. Put your mouse on a state for more information.
This map shows the current House. Put your mouse on a state for more information.
-- The Votemaster