From Roll Call:
Life in the minority will be a new experience for most House Republicans next year. And many of them may not remember what happened the last time the GOP lost the House.
After the 2006 Democratic wave, about two dozen Republicans opted to retire the following cycle instead of languishing in the minority. And some in the party are worried about a repeat.
“I don’t know if people have gotten over the shell shock yet, but there ought to be,” said Rep. Tom Cole when asked if there was concern about potential retirements.
The Oklahoma Republican knows firsthand the costs of losing the majority. He chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2008 campaign cycle and was tasked with convincing Republicans in tough districts not to retire. Twenty-three members ended up choosing to leave.
Convincing someone not to retire is a difficult, but important, sell — especially after a huge wave of GOP retirements in the 2018 cycle opened the door to Democratic victories last month.
“We saw how devastating that was for us this year,” Cole said. “Another round of that would be really bad.”
Close attention is likely to fall on lawmakers who survived close races last month, particularly in suburban areas where President Donald Trump is unpopular. And a few names are already starting to circulate.
A handful of Texas Republicans survived closer-than-expected contests. Rep. Pete Olson, who won re-election by 5 points in a district outside Houston, had been rumored to be eyeing the exit. But his chief of staff Melissa Kelly denied it. Rep. Kenny Marchant, who won his Dallas-area seat by just 3 points, said he “absolutely” is also running again, calling his recent victory margin an “anomaly.”
A handful of GOP ranking members who are facing their last term at the top of their committees could also be looking to leave. Republicans can only serve a combined six years as chairman or ranking member of a committee, and that influenced several retirements last cycle.
Rep. Olson has been the subject of retirement rumors for some time now. I don’t think anyone will be surprised if he bows out. Marchant is a new name for this, and it’s one that I think may have been more about speculation than actual chatter. That said, people have noticed how close CD24 was, and it’s a virtual certainty that Marchant will be in the spotlight this cycle. Beto carried CD24, a fact that you should expect to hear many more times over the next two years. (Beto also carried CD10, by a smaller margin.)
Along those lines, here are the way-too-early Cook Political Report rankings for the 2020 House elections. CDs 07 and 32, the two won by Dem challengers this year, are Lean Democratic. CDs 23 and 24 – there’s that district again – are Republican Toss-Ups. CDs 10, 21, 22, and 31 are Lean Republican, while CD06 is Likely Republican. I for one think CDs 02, 03, and 25 deserve mention as well. No matter how you look at it, Texas is going to get a lot of attention in 2020.