Blue Dog retirement wave coming?

Bart Gordon's announcement raises the spectre of defections

By Thomas Schaller
December 15, 2009 12:15AM (UTC)
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There is a significant amount of buzz today about Bart Gordon's announcement that he will retire from Congress at the end of his term.

Gordon is one of the more conservative members of Nancy Pelosi's House majority. He is in his 13th term representing the 6th District of Tennessee--one of those states where a more than a smattering of counties voted for Barack Obama last year at lower rates than they did five years ago for John Kerry. Gordon is also, not surprisingly, one of the 49 so-called "McCain Democrats"--i.e., a Dem who won in a district that Obama lost. In fact, best I can tell only six "McCain Democrats" won in districts where McCain's margin was wider than the 25 points by which the Arizona senator carried TN-6. (They are, in order: MS’s Gene Taylor, 36 points; TX’s Chet Edwards, 35; OK’s Dan Boren, 31; TN’s Lincoln Davis, 29; ID’s Walt Minnick, 26; and AL’s Bobby Bright, 26)


The Post's fixer, Chris Cilliza, writes: "Gordon has held the central Tennessee 6th district since 1984 but was headed to his most serious race in recent memory in 2010 as national Republicans had aggressively recruited against him due to the GOP lean of the seat....Gordon along with Reps. Brian Baird (Wash.), John Tanner (Tenn.) and Dennis Moore (Kans.) have announced their retirements in recent weeks from seats that will be major Republican targets in 2010."

The Politico's adds this gleeful quote from National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Andy Sere: “Tennessee is now the place where Democrat congressional candidacies go to die. Within a matter of weeks, four Volunteer State Democrats have abandoned their campaigns for Congress because voters there are rejecting the Obama-Pelosi agenda."

Retirements tend to plague two types of congressional parties: Those who are projected to suffer losses, and those who just did. This was the case leading up to 2006 for the GOP majority and again for Republican minority leading up to 2008. With 10 House Dems retiring, and in the kind of seats that only a longtime Blue Dog could hold back a pending Republican takeover from happening, the weight on Chris Van Hollen's shoulders just got a bit heavier today.



Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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