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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The GOP Departure Lounge

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.

Rachel Bade at WP:
[Paul] Mitchell [R-MI] is among a growing list of House Republicans — 18 to date — who have announced plans to resign, retire or run for another office, part of a snowballing exodus that many Republicans fear is imperiling their chances of regaining control of the House in the 2020 elections.

And the problem for the GOP is bigger than retirements. Since Trump’s inauguration, a Washington Post analysis shows that nearly 40 percent of the 241 Republicans who were in office in January 2017 are gone or leaving because of election losses, retirements including former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), and some such as Mitchell who are simply quitting in disgust.

The vast turnover is a reminder of just how much Trump has remade the GOP — and of the purge of those who dare to oppose him. Former congressman Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) lost his June 2018 primary after challenging Trump; he’s now a Republican presidential candidate. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), the only Republican to accuse Trump of impeachable acts, quit the GOP in July citing the “partisan death spiral.” His political future is uncertain.

Mitchell, who hails from a Republican-leaning district that Trump won easily in 2016, simply decided he had enough. He has a 9-year-old son with a learning disability and remaining in a highly polarized Washington just wasn’t worth the trade-off, he said.

“Did any member of this conference expect that their job would start out every morning trying to go through the list of what’s happening in tweets of the day?” Mitchell asked, referring to Trump’s Twitter habits. “We’re not moving forward right now. We are simply thrashing around.”

The retirement numbers are particularly staggering. All told, 41 House Republicans have left national politics or announced they won’t seek reelection in the nearly three years since Trump took office. That dwarfs the 25 Democrats who retired in the first four years of former president Barack Obama’s tenure — and Republicans privately predict this is only the beginning.