GOP Retirement Creates Highly Vulnerable Open Seat

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen leaves behind a Florida district Hillary Clinton won by 20 points

GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida leaves behind a difficult seat for Republicans to defend. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Long-time GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s decision to not seek re-election next year leaves behind a difficult open seat for her party to defend.

The Florida congresswoman is one of 23 Republicans to represent districts where Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the most recent presidential election.

Clinton won the 27th District 59-39 percent in 2016, but the Miami-Dade County seat didn’t recently turn Democratic. President Barack Obama won it 53-46 percent over Mitt Romney in 2016, according to Daily Kos Elections.

This is the type of retirement Democrats need in order to gain 24 seats and win back the House majority next year. Even though the district leans Democratic, Ros-Lehtinen hasn’t been in serious jeopardy of losing re-election (she won by 10 points last year). But it will be difficult for a GOP candidate to immediately replicate her success.

We’re changing the Inside Elections rating of the Florida 27 race from Solid Republican to Lean Democratic, a dramatic change.

Despite the presidential numbers, GOP strategists aren’t giving up on the race and believe their eventual nominee will be a battle-tested candidate who can replicate Ros-Lehtinen. And, at a minimum, Republicans believe losing the Florida district can be countered by winning Minnesota’s 1st District, where DFL Tim Walz is leaving in order to run governor. We’ll have more complete analysis in Roll Call and the upcoming May 5 issue of Inside Elections.  

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