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House Retirements Offer Democrats Limited Hope

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
McIntyre announed Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in 2014.

To be sure, Election Day is still months away — plenty of time for the national mood to shift toward Democrats. But the White House’s problematic second term and a rocky rollout of the new health care law spell trouble for Democrats at this point in the cycle.

There might be many more House retirements still to come as well — if history is precedent. In 2012, 25 House members retired without seeking higher office, according to a Roll Call tally. In 2010, 19 House members retired without seeking higher office.

“I think you see these retirements on both sides. Yes, you try to keep the seats but people are realistic about party performance,” Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg said. “I don’t think this is unusual. We’ve had multiple cycles in a row with big waves of retirements.”

Many of these open-seat opportunities are in districts that include some of the most expensive media markets in the country.

For example, Virginia’s 10th District includes the expensive Washington, D.C., media market, while retiring Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., and Gerlach represented districts that include the pricey Philadelphia airwaves. These districts cost $5 million to $10 million each to run competitive campaigns, operatives from both parties estimated.

There is good news for Democrats on that front — and maybe in future cycles as well. The DCCC starts the year off with an $8 million cash-on-hand advantage over the NRCC.

What’s more, presidential-year turnout helps Democrats in many of these newly open seats. If they are not successful this cycle, Democrats might have a better shot at these districts in 2016.

For example, Democrats could benefit from increased turnout in Iowa’s largest city, Des Moines, in a presidential year in the 3rd District. Turnout increases in other urban areas as well — that could help Democrats in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Of course, these seats will probably not be open opportunities in 2016 — regardless of whether Democrats have won them.

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