WASHINGTON – The beginning of September inevitably brings a wave of Congressional retirements, especially in non-election years, as members return from their August recess to a thankless helping of gridlock, unrelenting criticism, and public approval ratings of 15.8 percent, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls.
Pennsylvania moderate Republican Charlie Dent is one of seven House Republicans to recently announce his retirement.
“A lot of this was personal but also the polarization around here is pretty severe,” he told Fox News.
He joins soon-to-be retirees Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas) Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Dave Trott (R-Mich). Ten other GOP seats, mostly considered safe, are open as members run for higher office.
It could all signal trouble ahead for the GOP in the mid-terms, when the president’s party traditionally loses seats. Former presidential adviser and Breitbart publisher Steve Bannon is promising to back conservative and economic populists to root out moderates in Republican primaries.
Yet, the far-right Freedom Caucus remain resistant to compromise.
“Both of these groups, whether it’s Bannon or the Freedom Caucus still believe they can take over the Republican Party and dominate it,” says Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush and a Fox News contributor.
Conservative primary challenges didn’t work out well in the 2010 election cycle, as untested GOP Senate candidates like Sharon Angle in Nevada, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware faded in general elections with self-inflicted rookie gaffes.
Already in this new election cycle, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, who’s running against Sen. Luther Strange for Jeff Sessions’ seat, made an embarrassing misstep as he was queried on the local Dale Jackson radio show about “Dreamers” and the DACA program.
“You’re not aware of what Dreamers are?”
“No,” said Moore.
“This is a big issue in the immigration debate,” Dale Jackson responded incredulously.
“Why don’t you tell me what it is Dale and quit beating around and tell me what it is,” Moore responded.
Republicans are heartened that seven retirements and 10 other open seats are fewer in number than in an average election cycle.
“I’m not overall concerned right now. Seven is well below the 22 average retirements that would normally happen,” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), the chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, told Fox News. “Second… Democrats have retirement problems of their own.”
Stivers also maintains Republicans have a distinct advantage in redistricting.
The 100 Congressional districts that were once considered in play at any given time, has been whittled down to about 70, making it much more difficult for House Democrats to win a majority.
Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent. Click here for more information on Doug McKelway.