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More Senate Republican Retirements?


Ohio Sen. George Voinovich (center) is contemplating joining fellow Republican Kit Bond of Missouri (left) in retirement. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

UPDATED, 6:45 p.m.: NBC political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd (his Chuckness to us) writes in to vehemently disagree with the Fix's take on how the recent spate of Republican retirements may not be all bad news for Senate GOPers.

"This is a potential disaster with four retirements this quickly especially given that Republicans are already defending more seats," writes Chuck. "This is what happened to the Democrats in 1995. It is a self -fulfilling prophecy. Republicans won't be able to recruit any challengers, and even if the environment shifts in their direction (a la Democrats in 1996), they won't have incumbents or challengers in place to take advantage."

Touche. Who's right?

Original Post
The dust had barely settled on Sen. Kit Bond's (R-Mo.) announcement that he would not seek a fifth term in 2010 when word came out of Ohio that Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) was also weighing retirement.

The Columbus Dispatch headlined its piece "Voinovich said to be iffy about running in 2010"; Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Brent Larkin offered this assessment: "Running in 2010 remains an option but my guess (actually, it's more than a guess) is that Voinovich is giving serious consideration to stepping aside."

Our conversations with Republican sources familiar with Senate races cast Voinovich as more likely than not to retire but caution that the senator himself has made no decisions.

If Voinovich steps aside, he would be the fourth Republicans to announce his retirement in the 2010 election cycle, joining Bond as well as Sens. Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) on the sidelines.

All four seats will be seriously contested by Democrats although Republicans can -- and do -- argue that the retirements in Florida, and, to a far lesser extent in Missouri and Ohio (if it happens) don't badly damage their prospects of holding the seats.

Addition by subtraction is nothing new in the Senate race calculus. The retirement of Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton in 2006 clearly improved Democrats' chances of holding the seat. Republicans, by contrast, would have been far better off in 2000 if Sen. Bill Roth had retired and let Rep. Mike Castle (R) run in his place. Instead, Roth ran and lost to Sen. Tom Carper (D).

In Florida, Martinez's job approval numbers and woeful fundraising numbers had made it nearly impossible for him to be reelected. In Missouri and Ohio, both Bond and Voinovich would be in their 70s as they seek reelection -- always a worry for Senate strategists.

Are Republicans better off then if Voinovich joins Bond, Brownback and Martinez on the sidelines?

Maybe but then again maybe not.

The most likely GOP candidate in an open seat race would be former Rep. Rob Portman who has long eyed the Senate and is a beloved figure among the Washington party establishment. Portman would almost certainly be able to put together the $20 million or so needed to run and win statewide in Ohio, and is a skilled and able politician on the stump.

But, several others might look at the race including former Sen. Mike DeWine, state Auditor Mary Taylor and former Sen. (sorry, it's Friday!) John Kasich, and a contested and expensive primary could damage the eventual Republican nominee for a general election.

Democrats, interestingly, do not have all that strong a bench in the state with Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, state Attorney General Richard Cordray and Reps. Tim Ryan and Zack Space mentioned.

Keep an eye on Voinovich in the coming weeks to see if he gives any indication of whether he plans to seek re-election or not. Looking for other Republicans on retirement watch? Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.), Jim Bunning (Ky.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) all fit the bill.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 9, 2009; 4:55 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party , Senate  
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Comments

The Fix asks
"Who's right?"

Thus far, 'the Chuckness' seems closer to the mark than The Fix. Perhaps once the Repubs select a new leader they will rapidly organize and inspire a new round of quality candidates to join the party & run for the Senate in 2010. At this time, the odds are low that this will happen - there are too many long-shot variables and they need to beat the odds on all of them.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 12, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the landscape HAS changed in Ohio -- however, the Democratic bench is not necessarily all that strong in the state regardless. Decades of Republican dominance has left the Democratic party without a ton of easily recognizable names. Nevertheless, if the atmosphere in Ohio is similar to '06 or '08, a recognizable name may not be as important as the "D" next to one's name.

Posted by: flynnb | January 11, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

In your list of Republican Senators who are expected to retire in 2010 you left our Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Here in Texas, she is assumed to be running for Governor of Texas against incumbent Rep. Gov. Rick Perry.

Posted by: TexasHillCountryDemocrat | January 11, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"by 2010 the dems and liberal media won't/can't blame bush or the GOP anymore."

Oh, I think anyone who isn't a blindly partisan Republican will be able to ascribe blame to Bush and the GOP for decades. Decades. Once again: Decades.

Posted by: nodebris | January 10, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Like the war on terror - the real struggle is between ideas. The idea makes the party - not the other way round. That's what 'the environment shifts in their direction' means.

However - as the captain of the Titanic found out - what one believes doesn't necessarily make it true.

For those that can't bring themselves to support those trying to repair the holes, then the next best option (for the patriot) is to step aside and not hinder them.

The Republican party can be seen as a body of ideas. Consider the term RINO - that would be an individual who doesn't embrace the ideas of the party. The party right now is collection of individuals, and will remain so until they re-form around some new ideas.

Individuals may form a 'cult of personality', consider Bush's 29% approval rating. But that does not a party make. In an era of 'stagflation' Reagan's ideas worked, but those same ideas today are a stone cold loser today. Individuals make try and capture the threads of Reagan's cult of personality, but none of them seem too keen to articulate his ideas.

Posted by: DonJasper | January 10, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Since incumbents have a 90% chance of re-election it is never good news to have a vacant position in an election. A bunch of retirements usually shows a somewhat demoralized party.

Republicans in the northeast are an endangered species and there are 2 very vulnerable senators there.

The GOP is in big trouble and the Democrats should make the 60 seat majority in 2010.

Posted by: isart | January 10, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

"Republican retirements are being offset by at least three seats that will have appointed senators with less than two years experience (NY, Ill and Col)who will have to defend their seat in competitive situations."

You really think NY, which only has 3 Republican representatives out of 29, which voted for Obama 62-37, is going to elect a Republican S=senator? Both Kennedy and Cuomo trounce King (probably the R's best candidate) in polls, and it's not due to lack of name recognition on King's part. Illinois? The party will likely rally around someone else other than Burris, keeping another strong blue state in Dem hands. Colorado is the only one I think right now with a legitimate shot of those three, and depending on the next two years Nevada as well. That said, that only makes those two competitive, not even likely Republican pickups.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | January 10, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Chris, but I'm sure Chuck Todd is correct. Let's look at Ohio, for instance. Your post seems to forget that the 2006 election never happened:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/elections/2006/oh.html

Considering the margin Sherrod Brown won by against an incumbent senator, and considering that Ted Strickland won by even more votes, I think you have to acknowledge that the landscape in Ohio has changed.

Posted by: DaveinNorthridge | January 10, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Republicans destroyed this country by extreme adherence to a bogus ideology. They can't say No taxes, No government regulation, Strong defense, leave it to the private sector, Morality, Christian morality or even fiscal responsibility because they've managed to make all of those slogans as believable as the Commies saying that they did everything for "The People". The Republican Party is a fraud. The country knows it and the remaining members will slink out of town before they get tarred and feathered.

Posted by: thebobbob | January 10, 2009 2:41 AM | Report abuse

Republican retirements are being offset by at least three seats that will have appointed senators with less than two years experience (NY, Ill and Col)who will have to defend their seat in competitive situations. Republicans could indeed pick up one or two of those seats. I doubt they have even a snowballs chance in Delaware where the fourth appointed senator will have to defend his seat. To complicate things, at least Burris (if he gets seated) will face massive and well financed primary opposition which does not always help the eventual winner. So you never know. They may actually gain a seat or two. More reason for Obama to get on with the job at hand.

Posted by: Opa2 | January 10, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

kreuz_missile wrote, "It's not so much about prospects for 2010 specifically, it's about prospects for the next decade, and what an uphill climb it will be for any of these folks to be in the majority again. They don't want a career in the minority."

I think that's exactly right, though I still regard their decisions as a leading indicator (one among many that ought to be considered) for 2010.

The good news for Republicans is that there is one chance for them to come out of this mess with an eduring majority.

The bad news for Republicans is that their one chance will arise if and only if Obama and his wife literally fulfill the "predictions" of the famous New Yorker magazine cover ( at http://www.cartoonbank.com/product_details.asp?mscssid=JR0NK4MM67MG9JLLLLEC88URGC8XFVS2&sitetype=1&did=5&sid=125383&pid=&keyword=Obama§ion=prints&title=&whichpage=2&sortBy=popular or http://tinyurl.com/9u7gb7 ).

Posted by: officermancuso | January 9, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

The Bush recession is going to be the gift that keeps on giving to the Dems for years to come, Skippy.


I'm not surprised that Wingnuts like you are hoping for a full blown depression. Repuglicans have never cared about the average American citizen anyway, they only care about being in power....and after wetting the bed for the last eight years they're delusional if they think they're coming back anytime soon.


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With majorities in both chambers the dems and obama are now responsible and when the stimulus fails, which history tells us it will who are the dems gonna blame?

Posted by: walken101 | January 9, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

---------------


Posted by: DrainYou | January 9, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Although all politics is local as they say, I think GOPers still have a couple of election cycles in the dumpster. They have yet to figure up why they lost in 2006 and 2008. And given the GUYS running for RNC chair, they won't be figuring it up for some time to come.

Posted by: Roofelstoon | January 9, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Todd is correct, and I would also like to make the following observations:

1) Incumbents have more fundraising "juice" than new challengers, so losing their incumbents weakens the GOP considerably.

2) The fact that these older GOP senators are retiring is a signal that they do not believe the GOP will regain control of the Senate during their useful working lives. Many of these retirees enjoyed chairmanships and real power while the GOP controlled the Senate: they have no desire (or time) to wait around for another chance for real power, especially if that time is 12 or 16 years in the future.

3) The GOP will need to recruit very young candidates who are willing and able to join the Senate as members of the minority and then wait and scheme for the GOP's return to the majority at some distant point in the future.

Posted by: JCWilmore | January 9, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

"The average seat swing lately apart from 1994, 2006, and 2008 has been in the mid to low single digits."

Had Obama not been at the top of the ticket, I doubt as many seats in Congress would have gone Dem, and that was on top of the extraordinary year they were set to have. Two big exception years to the rule in a row, I think they are in need of a bit of a correction, especially with how slanted the map was for Republicans in terms of district alignments.

Overall, I agree with Chuck. The Republican bench in many of these cases is relatively weak, and stretched by other races already. Having to fill one more high profile race dilutes candidates, and money, even more.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | January 9, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to your Highness King Fix (who we all ove and respect highly), I hope Chuck Todd ( his Chuckness) is right.

Can you imagine the day the Dems have 2/3rds of the Senate?

Posted by: mkaplan1220 | January 9, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

If the stimulus fails, it will not only (or should I say, "not even") be a failure of government, it will primarily be a failure of the private sector to recover from a collapse brought about by its own excesses.

And in that case Democrats can and will argue that the story Republicans have been selling since long before Ronald Reagan, that government can do nothing well, and everything should be left to the private sector, has been utterly discredited.

People will pay attention to that argument if unemployment by people whose last employer was not government remains at near-postwar-record levels, and the value of their homes continues to flatline.

Pain is a very powerful motivator.

Posted by: officermancuso | January 9, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

"I don't know that Dems will make many gains, they'll probably lose about 15 in the house just based on trends"

Barring a big disaster, that's not likely. Swings in the House have become smaller and smaller over the years; in the 1940s through to even the 70s, maybe, but not now. The average seat swing lately apart from 1994, 2006, and 2008 has been in the mid to low single digits.

Posted by: SeanC1 | January 9, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I don't know that Dems will make many gains, they'll probably lose about 15 in the house just based on trends, and thought they'd be down to about 57 in the Senate. This will certainly make the Senate easier, keeping them around 58 or 59.

It's not so much about prospects for 2010 specifically, it's about prospects for the next decade, and what an uphill climb it will be for any of these folks to be in the majority again. They don't want a career in the minority.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | January 9, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that the 2010 off year elections will buck the historical norm and see an *increase* in Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress."

The Senate, probably; the House is harder to predict, since everybody was up for reelection last time. Now, a flood of retirements in vulnerable seats would certainly facilitate that.

I would say that Martinez's retirement is a good thing for Republican chances; Voinovich, I'm not sure. Portman's got some good qualifications, but he was Bush's Trade Representative at a time when their trade policies were shipping jobs overseas. In an economically depressed place like Ohio, the campaign against him writes itself.

Posted by: SeanC1 | January 9, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

by 2010 the dems and liberal media won't/can't blame bush or the GOP anymore. With majorities in both chambers the dems and obama are now responsible and when the stimulus fails, which history tells us it will who are the dems gonna blame?

Posted by: walken101 | January 9, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

When leading corporate officials (legally) buy or sell shares in their own company, that information is rightly regarded as a useful indicator for other investors to consider. These continuing Republican retirements strike me as the same sort of thing, and don't bode well for the party in 2010.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that the 2010 off year elections will buck the historical norm and see an *increase* in Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

Chris, Chris, tea at happy hour on a Friday night? What is journalism coming to?

Posted by: officermancuso | January 9, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

After kissing W's arse for eight straight years it seems that GOPer politicians can't jump ship fast enough now that they have become a very small minority party.


The entire 2009 GOP should just retire in mass, they have done nothing but make themselves irrelevant for years to come.


Heckuva Job, GOPer's!

Posted by: DrainYou | January 9, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I loved the "Sorry, it's Friday" comment. Makes this column like written by a real human person.

Posted by: TabLUnoLCSWfromUtah | January 9, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

The republicans have ruined the country, now they are all running for hills to hide.

Good riddance!

Posted by: xxxDarkness | January 9, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

oh, that makes sense then.

don't let the door hit you on the way out, Comrades!

Posted by: WillSeattle | January 9, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

"The retirement of Sen. Mark Dayton in 2006 clearly improved Democrats' chances of holding the seat. Republicans, by contrast, would have been far better off in 2000 if Sen. Bill Roth had retired and let Rep. Mike Castle (R) run in his place."

Huh? What is this a reference to? Mark Dayton was from Minnesota, right? Roth lost to who in 2000? This is an odd paragraph that lacks context.

Posted by: rlalumiere | January 9, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

MISTAKE: Hey you meant former Rep. John Kasich, not former Sen. John Kasich.

Posted by: jsperez | January 9, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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