It’s that time of year when members of Congress have to make the decision to run for office again or call it quits. On the Republican side of the aisle, more than a few members of the House are “lunging for the exits.”
While 16 GOP lawmakers have decided to throw in the towel on their Capitol Hill careers, only two Democrats so far have called it quits — and they both are seeking higher office.
The disparity underscores the sharply different moods in the two parties: Democrats, still heady from winning control of Congress last year, are enjoying the fruits of power. Republicans, their party in disarray and reduced to minority status in the House and Senate, see more allure in retirement or private life.
“I don’t like being in the minority,” said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who was first elected in the 1994 GOP landslide and will retire after this term. “It’s not that much fun, and the pros- pects for the future don’t look that good.”
The wave of retirements compounds the challenge facing the GOP in the 2008 congressional election, because the party is significantly trailing Democrats in fundraising. That means Republicans will apparently be defending more House and Senate seats with less money, and they will be fighting battles in places that otherwise might have been secure.
What is more, many of the Republicans choosing to retire are older, more pragmatic lawmakers, such as Rep. Ralph Regula of Ohio; moderates like Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio and Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia; and mavericks like Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. These departures reflect the generational and ideological changes that have pushed the Republican contingent in Congress steadily to the right over the last decade.
A former GOP official, Eddie Mahe, says “it is no surprise that many Republicans are thinking about quitting politics at a time when President Bush’s popularity is low, Iraq is in turmoil and the U.S. economy may be going soft.”
In the ’08 presidential race (and Congressional races) the Democratic party is raking in the dough, the N.Y. Times reports, “leading Democratic presidential candidates raised twice as much money as their Republican counterparts this summer.”
In short, the GOP is bailing on the sinking ship.