Republicans in exodus from Congress as Trump backlash builds
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.