As House Democratic retirements soar, McCarthy says 2022 election ‘becomes a different play’

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With the Christmas and New Year’s holiday break fast approaching, the announcements came quickly.

A trio of Democrats in the House of Representatives – Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, and Albio Sires of New Jersey – on Monday said that they’ll retire at the end of next year rather than seek another term in Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.

The latest news brings to 23 the number of House Democrats who are retiring or bidding for another office rather than run for reelection in 2022, when their party tries to defend its razor-thin majority in the House amid historically unfavorable headwinds and a rough political climate. The GOP needs a net gain of just five seats in the 435-member chamber next year to regain the House majority it lost to the Democrats in the 2018 midterms. 

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., speaks during the Problem Solvers Caucus press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Murphy on Dec. 20, 2011 announced she wouldn’t seek reelection in the 2022 midterms. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Republicans have history on their side – on average the party that wins the White House in a presidential election loses more than 25 House seats in the ensuing midterm election. And the once-in-a-decade congressional redistricting process is expected to favor the GOP, as Republicans control more state legislatures and governors’ offices.

This week’s major setback for President Biden and congressional Democrats in their push to pass a sweeping human infrastructure and climate change combating spending bill, along with the five-month downward spiral of the president’s poll numbers, are also doing House Democrats no favors as try to keep the majority next November.

But even before Biden’s approval ratings began to crater, House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy forecast the current wave of Democratic retirement announcements.

“Once you get past Thanksgiving and members go home, and they’re Democrats and they’ve been challenged before and they’re going to get beat up, Congress is not that great,” the longtime GOP lawmaker from California told Fox News during an interview in August.

Pointing to the redistricting process, McCarthy noted that House Democrat would have “new lines where they have to go meet new people.”

And looking ahead at the time to the Thanksgiving break and the Christmas through New Year’s holiday, McCarthy predicted that House Democrats are “going to make a decision to retire, that’s the best time so they can go get another job. When we get that retirement number up higher, into double-digit figures, the whole thing becomes a different play.”

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 27: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at a press conference at the Capitol building on August 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Leader (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

House retirements are often seen as an early barometer of things to come in the midterms. The last time the House flipped, amid a blue wave in the 2018 midterms, there were 23 GOP retirements compared to just 10 among House Democrats. Competitive seats become even more vulnerable without a well-known incumbent with a healthy war chest running for reelection.

“Only members themselves know why they decide to retire. But if there’s an imbalance of retirements toward one party or another, it sometimes can tell us something about what the party with a lot of retirees thinks might happen in the midterms,” Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of the nonpartisan political handicapper Sabato’s Crystal Ball, told Fox News. 

This time around, only 11 House Republicans to date have announced they’re retiring or seeking another office in 2022.

FILE – Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., in 2019. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
(Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the reelection arm of House Democrats, pointed to their recent fundraising edge over the rival National Republican Congressional Committee.

“House Democrats are heading into the midterms with record-breaking fundraising numbers, earlier than ever investments in organizing, and an agenda that’s wildly popular among battleground voters.” DCCC spokesperson Chris Taylor told Fox News. 

Taylor argued that because “voters see Democratic members and candidates focused on rebooting the economy and getting folks back on the job,” the DCCC’s believes that “incumbent or not, we’re confident in our ability to win the House yet again.”

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