Democrat prospects for keeping control of the House and, perhaps even the Senate, appear to be growing dimmer ahead of the 2022 midterm elections if decisions not to run next year by many long-serving members of the party are any indication.
As approval ratings for President Biden and Vice President Harris continue to crater, more Democrats have announced they will retire from Congress, decisions reminiscent of how Republicans looked for the exits ahead of the 2018 midterms.
“It is time to put down the gavel. It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), 81, said on Monday after he announced he won’t seek reelection next year.
And though his seat is not expected to be targeted by Republicans in deep-blue Vermont, his departure, when taken with other Democrats who have announced they, too, will step down, are not a good sign the party is heading into the next election cycle confident about its electoral prospects.
“Already three senior House Democrats who were expected to cruise to reelection next year, Reps. Mike Doyle (Pa.), David Price (N.C.), and John Yarmuth (Ky.) have announced they will not seek new terms,” The Hill reported. In addition, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), announced she is also retiring, marking the eighth Democrat overall to do so.
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) November 16, 2021
“Today, I am announcing that I will not be a candidate for reelection to Congress in 2022,” Speier noted in a video posted to Twitter. “It’s time for me to come home, time for me to be more than a weekend wife, mother, and friend.”
Kyle Kondic, a University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst, explained that he believes the tide began to turn for Democrats following Biden’s chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“It definitely seems like something changed in August,” he told The Hill, noting Biden’s approval rating began to tank afterward. He called the moment a “catalyst” for the changing political landscape.
Also, earlier this month, Democrats lost what was thought to be a sure-fire victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, as Republicans also flipped the lieutenant governor’s office as well as the office of state attorney general. In New Jersey, a little-known former Republican assemblyman nearly knocked off Gov. Phil Murphy (D), and a first-time GOP candidate — a truck driver who only spent a couple of hundred dollars on his campaign — defeated a long-serving Democratic state Senate president.
Meanwhile, Republican candidates won district attorney and state assembly races in New York, while a blue Texas state congressional district that is heavily Hispanic also turned red. And GOP candidates make substantial gains in local elections for school boards and other offices.
Plus, domestic issues are increasingly becoming concerns for a majority of Americans. Higher gas and energy prices, supply chain chokepoints, and the ongoing migrant crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border have also weighed heavily against the Biden administration in general and Democrats in particular.
“There are lots of other problems that have emerged this summer. COVID hasn’t gone away, inflation, gas prices. The public is just in kind of a surly mood and the results from two weeks ago were not good for Democrats,” Kondik noted.
He went on to speculate about Leahy’s decision to retire when 81 isn’t considered to be an exorbitant age to serve in D.C.
“When senior members retire it’s sort of interpreted as a tacit acknowledgment of the environment,” he said. “There have been some senior Democrats in the House who have retired who also, like Leahy, probably would have easily won reelection had they run again.”
“It may be that these are senior members who were on the fence and were thinking, ‘Boy, it’s looking more and more possible that the Republicans could be in the majority in both the House and the Senate and do I really want to go back to serving in the minority?’ ” he noted further.
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