House Speaker Paul Ryan is finished. He’s done with public life. He said he’s not willing to be a weekend dad anymore and wants to spend more time with his family, which is commendable. But let’s be honest here: it’s a terrible signal to send in an election year. It also adds to the problem that has made the GOP position for the 2018 elections shakier by the week: retirements. Since the Trump tax bill became law in December of 2017, there has been an avalanche of retirements. And now we have another: Dennis Ross (R-FL) has said he’s calling it quits too (via Tampa Bay Times):
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, told his staff this morning he is retiring.
"Eight years takes its time on you. … There's got to be an exit strategy at some point," Ross said in an interview, noting he planned on serving 10 years, or five terms.
Ross, a former state House member, said he was informing staff about his decision and looked up at Fox News to see Speaker Paul Ryan had decided to step down and that he was unaware of those plans.
He dismissed the suggestion that his retirement had anything to do with a possible Democratic wave, though the open seat will now become a target, while setting off a scramble among Republican hopefuls.
Some retirements could be understood, but many have flipped solid GOP districts into toss-ups this year. If anything, these retirements have caused more damage to the GOP's election prospects than the lack of progress on fully repealing Obamacare. Luckily, the GOP has a tax reform bill that is geared towards the working and middle classes, which has benefited scores of American businesses and over three million workers. Still, the retirements could be seen as the silent killer for the GOP come November (via NYT):
The good news for Democrats is that several of the Republicans retiring from the most competitive districts were particularly strong incumbents. They are longtime, moderate incumbents with a history of running far ahead of the national party in their district. Many won re-election without any serious challenge, even when Barack Obama won their districts in 2008 or 2012.
In a strongly Democratic political environment like this one, Washington’s Dave Reichert and New Jersey’s Frank LoBiondo were arguably the two most valuable possible retirement for the Democrats. Democrats got both.
In a more competitive national environment, Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen might have been the most valuable retirement, and she is leaving, too. Pennsylvania’s Charlie Dent is another valuable retirement for Democrats. In some cases, the retirements have moved safely Republican districts all the way to tossups.
What about Ryan’s district? Well, NBC News seems to think it’s in play:
Ironworker and Army vet Randy Bryce (often referred to by his twitter moniker @Ironstache) is viewed as a good match for this industrial district. He's well-funded and well-organized, too; he raised $2.1 million this last quarter, outraising Ryan for the 3-month period and putting his total haul at about $4.75 million. Schoolteacher Cathy Myers is also running in the Democratic primary.
The DCCC recently put the race in their red-to-blue program, which directs resources to the country’s most competitive takeover opportunities for the party.
The district has been a competitive battleground.
In 2008, Obama won it, 51 percent to 48 percent.
In 2012, with Ryan on the ticket, Mitt Romney only won this district by five points, 52 percent to Obama’s 47 percent.
In 2016, the margin for Trump was 10 points; 52 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent.
Republicans do have some time to find a Ryan replacement. The filing deadline in Wisconsin is June 1.
Others aren’t so optimistic about Democrats’ chances for picking this seat up.