Forget the generic congressional ballot, for a moment anyway. What gives us the best predictive model for the midterm election outcome? The number of House majority members heading for the exits:
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) announced Tuesday that she will not run for reelection, in the 25th retirement by a House Democrat as the party faces tough odds in the midterm elections.
Lawrence, 67, is a four-term member of Congress and serves as vice-chair of the House Appropriations Committee. She has spent three decades in public service. In 2001, she became the first woman and African American to win election as mayor of Southfield, Mich.
“Today, after reflecting on my journey — and, oh my goodness, what a journey — and having conversations with my family, I am announcing that I will not be seeking reelection to Congress,” Lawrence said in a video she posted to her official Twitter account Tuesday night.
Lawrence noted that she will serve out the remainder of her current term and thanked the people of Michigan’s 14th District “who placed their trust and vote in me — in me, just a little Black girl from the east side of Detroit.”
At 67, Lawrence is practically a youngster in comparison to House Democrats’ senior leadership, all three of whom are in their eighties. At only four terms, her colleagues must have expected her to keep working her way up the leadership ladder, too. The only reason this isn’t a surprise is because twenty-four of Lawrence’s fellow House Democrats have already hit the egresses before her — and it looks like more of them will follow suit.
That doesn’t mean that Republicans will win Lawrence’s district. Michigan’s 14th CD in the Detroit region has a Cook rating of D+30, so no Republican will come within shouting distance of this seat. Given MI-14’s status as a majority-black district (57%), it seems a cinch that the Congressional Black Caucus won’t lose a member, either. But as Punchbowl reminds its readers this morning, that misses the point, especially with six others in the CBC suddenly planning more time with their families:
Lawrence is the second veteran member of the Congressional Black Caucus just this week to announce their retirement, joining Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).
Overall, seven CBC members won’t return next year, which is a lot of turnover for a group that’s power comes in part from its members’ seniority. Several of these CBC members are seeking other offices, including Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and Val Demings (D-Fla.).
Only 11 Republicans have said they’re retiring at this point. So, advantage GOP.
Just for perspective …
Number of CBC retirements
2022: 7 (so far) https://t.co/YQWCxejIXi
— Niles Francis (@NilesGApol) January 5, 2022
That’s quite a brain drain taking place, and it’s almost certainly not over. Realistically, Democrats will need at least a few weeks to recruit and position new candidates before congressional primaries, which will start in the early spring. To keep from shafting their party, House retirees will have to settle that business no later than the end of February. How many more House Democrats will bail out between now and then? At least as many that make the same decision these twenty-five did — not to exist in a House minority and have next to nothing to do for the next two or four years, or more.
That’s the nightmare that Nancy Pelosi and DNC chair Jaime Harrison will face for the next couple of months. Instead of spending resources on offense, Democrats will have to redirect it to recruitment, training, and other defensive measures even in safe districts like MI-14. That will distract at least somewhat from supporting incumbents in vulnerable districts that Republicans will likely win back in November. It may very well add to the amplitude of the red wave everyone sees on the horizon by now … especially these newly-minted retirees.
So what about that generic ballot trend? RCP has it at GOP +1.1 points with more recent polling trending back toward Democrats. With Joe Biden plunging in polling on both overall approval and below water in every policy category, that seems very doubtful as a predictive measure at the moment. The flood of House Democrats to the exits is a much more reliable indicator, especially since it also acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy as well.