Marion Berry Retires
WaPo’s Chris Cilliza, who broke the news, observes Barry is “the sixth Democrat in a competitive seat to leave in the last two months but the first to announce his retirement since the party’s special election loss in Massachusetts last Tuesday.” Republican bloggers are naturally pleased with the trend and GOP leaders are crowing. National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Ken Spain declared, “The message coming out of the Massachusetts special election is clear: No Democrat is safe.”
But looking at facts in isolation can be misleading.
As Cilliza notes, 14 House Republicans — i.e., two more than the 12 Democrats — have also announced their retirement.
Moreover, as Steven Taylor points out, “The Democrats currently hold a 257-177 advantage in the House of Representatives.” (There’s currently a vacant seat.)
That means the GOP needs to pick up 41 seats to retake the majority they lost in 2006. The Dems picked up 31 seats that year. And, during the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994, the party picked up a whopping 54 seats — including that of Speaker Tom Foley. So, 41 in one election has precedent.
Is a repeat of 1994 possible? Well, there are parallels. There are genuine signs that the public is angry at the current state of affairs, which spelled doom for the incumbent majority in 2006 and 1994. As in those races, there are an unusual number of open seats. And the party leader — this time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — is once again in real danger of losing his seat, facing low poll numbers and the possibility of a strong challenger.
Then again, there are differences. In 1994 and 2006, the incumbent parties were embroiled in nasty scandals. And, in 1994, the Republicans offered an attractive alternative policy.
So, while winning back the House is theoretically possible, it’s an uphill fight.
An earlier version of this post had Reid as Speaker of the House which, of course, he isn’t.