More 2022 worries for House Dems

Last week, I wrote about the decision of Rep. Cheri Bustos not to seek reelection in 2022, and the possibility that the Illinois congresswoman’s retirement might cost the Democrats a seat in the House. I also mentioned that several other House Dems from potentially competitive seats — Cindy Axne of Iowa, Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy of Florida — are considering leaving the House to run for the Senate.

This Washington Post article adds to the list. Charlie Crist of Florida has been exploring a run for governor, a position he once held as a Republican. He now says he will make a “major announcement” this week. In addition, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania is said to be considering a bid for the Senate. And Filemon Vela of Texas and Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona have already announced their plans to leave the House. Each of these seats is considered competitive.

Redistricting is another problem for House Dems. Republicans control this process in Florida and Texas, both of which are adding seats this year. Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are giving up seats.

2022 may be a wave election in the House, along the lines of 2006, 2010, and 2018. Americans might well be in the mood to “throw the bums” out of the House. It’s also possible that Americans will be so happy with two years of Democratic giveaways and the end of the pandemic that they will want to maintain, and maybe even reinforce, the status quo.

In either of these scenarios, retirements won’t be decisive in determining which party controls the House. But if neither scenario comes to pass, it’s easy to imagine retirements of Dems in swing districts being key, given how slender — seven seats once a newly elected Dem is sworn in — the Democrats’ majority is.

I find it ironic that perceived Republican weakness in the Senate might undermine the Democrats’ position in the House. It’s because Democrats like their chances of gaining Senate seats in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Sens. Toomey and Portman are retiring, that Reps. Lamb and Ryan are tempted to leave the House to run for the Senate. Similarly, the possibility that Sen. Grassley, age 87, won’t run in 2022 might lure Rep. Axne out of the House.

It’s way too early to predict the outcome of the 2022 election, of course. However, it seems to me that the GOP’s chances of winning the House might well be better than its chances of recapturing the Senate, even though Senate Republicans are only one seat short of a majority.

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