Repub­li­cans in ex­o­dus from Congress as Trump back­lash builds

The Sunday Telegraph - - World News - By Ben Ri­ley-Smith US ED­I­TOR

MORE Repub­li­cans are quit­ting Congress than at any time in the past 44 years, anal­y­sis for The Sun­day Tele­graph has re­vealed, as a back­lash against Don­ald Trump gath­ers pace.

Thirty-seven Repub­li­cans in the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives are not seek­ing re-elec­tion in the 2018 midterms – the high­est num­ber since 1974.

Fear of be­ing swept away by a “blue wave” of Demo­cratic sup­port dur­ing the elec­tions this Novem­ber is partly driv­ing the ex­o­dus, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts and Re­pub­li­can in­sid­ers, and the trend makes it eas­ier for the Democrats to take con­trol of the House back from the Repub­li­cans be­cause in­cum­bent can­di­dates are harder to de­feat.

Los­ing the House would have a pro­found ef­fect on Mr Trump’s abil­ity to pass new laws in the fi­nal two years of his first term and open the door on pos­si­ble im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings.

Mitch McCon­nell, the Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader, con­ceded ear­lier this week that this year will be “chal­leng­ing” for Repub­li­cans. He told mem­bers of Ken­tucky To­day’s ed­i­to­rial board: “We know the wind is go­ing to be in our face. We don’t know whether it’s go­ing to be a Cat­e­gory 3, 4 or 5.”

Ge­of­frey Skel­ley, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics, looked at the his­tor­i­cal data for this news­pa­per.

The 37 Repub­li­cans not seek­ing re-elec­tion in­clude those who have re­tired or de­cided to run for an­other po­lit­i­cal of­fice, such as sen­a­tor or gov­er­nor. Tak­ing the same cri­te­ria, Mr Skel­ley found that the fig­ure is far higher than in any House Elec­tion since 1974 – the fur­thest point back in his records.

For scale, the 37 de­par­tures mean that around one in seven Repub­li­cans in the House will be step­ping aside.

Mr Skel­ley said: “Fear of re-elec­tion chances is cer­tainly a fac­tor in some of those re­tire­ments.

“Politi­cians don’t like to lose. In some cases, they may har­bour ad­di­tional po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions and a loss just looks bad. Some don’t want to go through the re­ally hard slog of try­ing to hold on to their seat in this en­vi­ron­ment.”

Some of the re­tire­ments have come in Penn­syl­va­nia, where the state’s supreme court over­turned a heav­ily ger­ry­man­dered seat bound­ary map that helped the Repub­li­cans. The Democrats are now ex­pected to win back three seats.

In Cal­i­for­nia, an­other two Repub­li­cans whose seats in­clude Or­ange County, the cen­tre of the state’s Repub­li­can­ism, have stepped aside.

Down­beat Re­pub­li­can chances do not ex­plain all the re­tire­ments. A hand­ful of con­gress­men have been forced to stand aside over sex scan­dals ex­posed dur­ing the #Me­Too move­ment.

But, ac­cord­ing to one Re­pub­li­can cam­paign ad­viser, morale is low and in­cum­bents are look­ing to jump be­fore be­ing pushed by the elec­torate.

“It is a ter­ri­ble work en­vi­ron­ment in DC right now. It’s ut­terly mis­er­able.

“You’ve got what’s go­ing to be an ex­traor­di­nar­ily tough elec­tion year with a blue wave com­ing. For a lot of peo­ple, it’s not worth fight­ing for,” he said.

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