Dropping like flies

DROPPING LIKE FLIES…. A month ago, much of the media decided that retirements among congressional Democrats were evidence of shifting political winds that will greatly benefit Republicans. In one report from ABC News, two Democratic retirements in the Senate were characterized as Dems “dropping like flies.”

In the meantime, Republican retirements not only outnumber Democrats, the GOP total keeps growing.

Florida Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart will call it quits today, retiring after nine terms representing a heavily Cuban-American district in the Miami area, according to a source briefed on the decision.

Diaz-Balart, whose younger brother, Mario, also holds a congressional seat in Florida, is the 18th Republican to retire this cycle and the second in two days.

Republicans will likely be favored to hold on to the seat, though the district has become slightly less “red” — and more competitive — in recent years.

But it’s the larger context that strikes me as interesting. There are 178 Republicans in the House caucus. There are now 18 House Republicans (and counting) retiring this year, six more than among Democrats.

Following up on a point Jonathan Singer raised yesterday, this means that more than one in 10 House GOP incumbents have decided to give up their seats in a year that’s supposed to be a wildly successful one for Republicans.

Now, in fairness, I should note that not all retirements are created equal. There’s a qualitative difference between stepping down in a competitive district and giving up one’s seat in a “sure thing” for the incumbent party. When considering questions like the balance of power, retirements are not quite the indicator some in the media would like to believe.

But if you ask anyone at the NRCC or DCCC for an honest opinion, I think they’d agree that when a party is supposed to have the wind at its back, and when that party’s leadership is trying to keep retirements to a minimum, having more than 10% of the caucus walk away has to be discouraging.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.