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Nearly half of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition was wiped out in Tuesday’s GOP House rout.
Twenty-two Blue Dogs Democrats had been defeated as of Wednesday morning, leaving the moderate bloc and its allies reeling. Two of the three Blue Dog co-chairmen — Reps. Baron Hill (Ind.) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.) — were among the losers, as was senior member Rep. Allen Boyd (Fla.). Democrats took a hit of at least 60 seats in the historic midterm balloting, which put Republicans back in control of the chamber.
A House Democratic aide with ties to the 54-member coalition described it as “a miserable year” for the group, whose ranks had swelled during the past two election cycles as Democrats made gains in conservative districts.
Retirements will thin the group’s ranks further come January: Six other Blue Dogs, including one of its founders, Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.), are either retiring or ran for other office.
And there is a sense among some Democrats that the party’s leadership is partially to blame.
“The Democratic leadership in the House did not listen to the pressure from the Blue Dogs to go slower, or to be less ambitious in their scope,” B&D Consulting lobbyist Maria Berthoud said. “The Blue Dog body count is a direct result of there not being enough room currently for moderates in the House Caucus decisions.”
Still, others say the Obama administration bears responsibility for the election outcome.
“Because the administration didn’t have its eye zeroed in solely on the immediate needs of the economy, we’re all suffering,” one House Democratic aide said, noting that the House passed a multitude of jobs bills in the weeks before the elections only to have them stall in the Senate. “The responsibility for getting the economy back on track — that is the administration’s responsibility and instead the focus was health care and cap-and-trade. ... They may be worthy causes, but the timing was not right.”
The aide added that Tuesday’s losses demonstrate “what many Blue Dogs [have] verbalized: We can’t just rely on the Democratic base to carry us through elections. But we have to reach out to moderates and independents.”
Doug Moore, a spokesman for Rep. Jim Marshall, an ousted Blue Dog, said the Georgian “did fairly well,” given the economic environment. “It just wasn’t enough.”
But Moore said there was no sense in Democrats blaming each other for the losses.
“The bigger problem here is that the economy is in really bad shape,” he said. “Let’s stop pointing the finger of blame at any one person. ... This isn’t about any one candidate. It isn’t about any one leader. ... These are very tough times. It’s very uncertain. ... It’s really about the economy.”
Among the Blue Dog survivors are Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Mike Ross (Ark.) and Jim Cooper (Tenn.), who are viewed as among those most likely emerge as new leaders of the group. Matheson serves Blue Dog co-chairman for policy, and Shuler — who made waves before the election for saying he would challenge Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) if no other candidate emerged — is the group’s whip.