No, the Red party didn’t score four touchdowns while surrendering a field goal and a safety to the Blues. And this is not the score from a slow pitch softball game. The numbers refer to how many members of Congress are declining to run for re-election in 2008, and can be interpreted as another hurdle for the Republicans.
One of the reasons for the exodus is the loss of control of the House to Democrats in 2006. Along with the Republican’s new 232-199 minority status came loss of committee chairmanships and loss of the ability to set the agenda, all on top of the new likelihood of being on the losing end of floor votes.
Many political armchair quarterbacks have noted that the party making big inroads in a given year, as the Democrats did in 2006, often cedes back some territory during the next cycle, as the opposition party makes a special effort to target House freshmen who are trying to graduate to sophomore status. However, this time it appears that much of the Republican exodus is taking place in districts where the Republican incumbent barely hung onto the seat in 2006. The lack of an incumbent in these battlegrounds put them at risk of going from red to blue.
The retirements generally create a need for an influx of national cash to try to defend the seat, and that is another problem for the Republicans. According to the New York Times, the Democrats’ Capitol Hill campaign committee is sitting on 35M cash, with only 1.3M in debt, compared to the Republicans’ 5M cash on hand and 2M debt.
RBR/TVBR observation: If you are in the district of a retiring representative, your district has almost been automatically elevated to cash-magnet battleground status. And since the House is the most local of all federal election categories, local stations figure to reap the lion’s share of the benefits.