Democrats are growing increasingly nervous about the mounting number of retirements by their incumbents in competitive House districts that former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE carried in 2020.
Of the seven House Democrats who represent Trump-won districts, two have already announced that they won’t seek reelection next year. Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — A warning shot on Biden's .5T plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden continues to grapple with Afghanistan chaos Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (D-Ill.) announced her retirement plans in April, while Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindWisconsin governor seeks to intervene in redistricting case Retail group backs minimum corporate tax, increased IRS enforcement LIVE COVERAGE: House panel launches work on .5T spending package MORE (D-Wis.) revealed just last week that he will not seek a 14th term in the House in 2022.
The retirements have become the subject of increasing hand-wringing among Democrats, who fear that an expectedly tough midterm cycle coupled with the possibility of competitive primaries in swing districts could ease the GOP’s path to the House majority next year.
Democrats also face the possibility that more of their members in Trump-won districts will bow out of their reelection bids.
Rep. Cindy AxneCindy AxneKatie Hill launches effort to protect Democratic majority in House 62 percent in Iowa disapprove of Biden, poll shows Biden approval ratings drop in seven key congressional districts: GOP-aligned poll MORE (D-Iowa) has not said whether she will run for reelection next year. She ruled out a Senate bid earlier this month but said she is still deciding whether to run for reelection or for Iowa governor.
"I'm still looking at some options that are out there," she told reporters. "Certainly, my No. 1 job is to make sure that Iowa has the best representation possible, whether that's at the state or federal level for the issues that we need."
It’s not just incumbents from Trump-won districts like Bustos and Kind that are ducking out ahead of the midterms.
Reps. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanOhio Republican tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in Rep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress MORE (D-Ohio) and Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristLawmakers making Instagram appearance before Free Britney rally at Capitol Governors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Trump announces endorsement in GOP race to replace Crist in Florida MORE (D-Fla.) are both forgoing reelection to run for governor of their respective states next year. Likewise, Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsDemocratic donors hesitant on wading into Florida midterm fights Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms First polls show mixed picture on Rubio-Demings race MORE (D-Fla.) is challenging Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Milley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job MORE (R-Fla.), while Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) is gunning for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat.
Democrats are already clinging to one of the narrowest House majorities in decades after a worse-than-expected performance in 2020 that saw the party lose 13 seats in the lower chamber. The 2022 elections threaten to further chip away at their holdings, especially given the tendency for a new president’s party to lose ground in the midterms.
Making the situation even more dire for the party is the decennial redistricting process, which began in earnest last week when the Census Bureau released long-awaited district-level results of the 2020 count.
While those results showed an increasingly diverse and urban United States, Republicans control the legislatures — and consequently the redistricting process — in several key states, including Texas, Florida and North Carolina, all three of which will add House seats through reapportionment.
That raises the prospect that the GOP could retake the House majority through redistricting alone.
“The Republicans are going to milk the redistricting as much as possible,” one Democratic National Committee member said. “So if there’s anything that we can do, we need to make sure we’re holding the retirements to a minimum, because, structurally, we don’t have the advantage.”
To be sure, some Democrats are quick to argue that the House retirements this year haven’t yet reached a level that they say would signal an impending Republican wave election.
Twenty-three House Republicans retired ahead of the 2018 midterms that eventually saw Democrats win back control of the lower chamber. So far this year, only four House Democrats — Bustos, Kind and Reps. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) — have announced retirement plans.
“I don’t think there’s anything near a big wave, or signals that a trend is really in development yet,” Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist, said. “If you look at previous buildups to wave elections, there are lots of retirements.”
“Last time around, for Republicans, you had already seen far, far more — you saw the writing on the wall.”
Reinish also said that while the Trump-won districts represented by Democrats will inevitably be competitive for both parties, it’s not yet clear whether Republicans will have the same momentum as they did when Trump himself was on the ballot in 2020. He noted that former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee Biden congratulates Trudeau for winning third term as Canadian prime minister Republicans have moral and financial reasons to oppose raising the debt ceiling MORE had carried several of those districts before they flipped for Trump.
“Here’s the deal: A lot of these districts are Obama-to-Trump districts. Without Trump at the top of the ticket, or at least in the White House, can you still call these Trump districts?” he said. “The fake Trumps that we’ve seen are not effective stand-ins for the real thing. And none of these districts that we’re talking about are extreme districts for either side.”
Axne may still choose to run for a third term representing her Des Moines-based district, and the four other Democrats in Trump-won districts — Reps. Jared Golden (Maine), Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinHoyer tells Israel removal of Iron Dome funding is 'technical postponement' Katie Hill launches effort to protect Democratic majority in House Biden approval ratings drop in seven key congressional districts: GOP-aligned poll MORE (Mich.), Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightI've seen the tragedy of Camp Lejeune — we can't wait any longer to help those impacted by toxic water Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms Anti-abortion group targets Democrats ahead of 2022 MORE (Pa.) and Andy Kim (N.J.) — haven’t offered any indication that they’re considering stepping down after their current terms are up.
But the 2022 midterms are still more than a year away, and there’s plenty of time for incumbents to make decisions about their political future. Former House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (R-Wis.), for instance, didn’t announce his retirement plans until seven months before the 2018 midterm elections.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWoodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Thompson says he hopes Jan 6. committee can complete work by 'early spring' Juan Williams: Shame on the anti-mandate Republicans MORE (R-Calif.) predicted more Democratic retirements after Thanksgiving, when lawmakers will head back to their districts for the holiday.
“Once you get past Thanksgiving and members go home, and they’re Democrats and they’ve been challenged before and they’re going to get beat up ... they’re going to make a decision to retire, that’s the best time so they can go get another job,” McCarthy told Fox News on Tuesday.
“When we get that retirement number up higher, into double-digit figures, the whole thing becomes a different play.”