Todd Johnson / November 14, 2017

GOP’s Real Challenge Isn’t Retirements

Republicans need to convert their missed opportunities into agenda success before 2018.

Following last week’s election defeats in Virginia and New Jersey, many members of the Republican Party are wondering if the results are a one-time anomaly or potentially a harbinger of things to come in next year’s congressional contests. And while it’s tempting to write off the results as being due to the particular candidates not performing well or the locations leaning Democrat, the Republican Party must do its due diligence moving forward. Republicans must examine the facts, identify key lessons learned, and then push to all future candidates salient advice so that the same errors are not made for next year’s elections.

And while many prognosticators and political pundits are quick to say that the Republican Party is in dire trouble — whether it’s the on-going Roy Moore saga in Alabama or President Donald Trump’s low approval ratings — the media is conveniently forgetting the political maxim that one set of off-year elections doesn’t make a trend.

Take for example the media’s recent coverage of Republican House members and senators who have announced they won’t be running for re-election. The narrative by many outlets is that this movement portends disaster for the Party of Lincoln when nothing could be further from the truth.

As of Nov. 13, two GOP senators and 12 House members have announced their retirements, two have resigned from office, and another 10 are leaving to pursue other elected offices. While these numbers sound like a lot, they are actually right in line with the last couple of election cycle’s turnover data.

In 2014, 27 Republican representatives and senators choose not to run for re-election, while another eight decided to leave office early. In 2012, the number of GOP representatives and senators who decided to retire was 23, while one quit his office early.

More importantly, we must remember that the vast majority of the seats being vacated by Republican incumbents are in GOP strongholds. Recent analysis shows that only a handful of seats are currently identified as competitive races. This dynamic, of course, can change but Republicans currently hold the tactical advantage — especially given that Senate Democrats are defending 25 seats (including two “independents”) while the GOP must hold just eight that are nearly all in solidly red states.

That’s why it’s critical for the Party of Reagan to pass significant legislation (like tax reform) over the next year, as well as to keep putting conservative judges on the federal bench so that the members have some accomplishments to tout to their constituents. A look at the current and proposed 2018 House Calendar reveals that there are only 120 work days prior to next year’s election. That’s why it is imperative for Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work closely with President Trump in 2018. Unfortunately, neither Ryan nor McConnell has shown the leadership conservatives are craving.

With 248 seats in the House of Representatives and 52 seats in the Senate, this Congress began with the largest Republican majority since the 71st Congress of 1929–1931. While there have been some very positive things have been accomplished in Trump’s first year, there have been too many missed opportunities. 2018 must be the year that the national Republican leadership coalesces, steps up to the plate, and delivers for the American people.

They need to heed the advice of Thomas Jefferson, when he wrote back in 1811, “If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain our object; but if we break into squads, everyone pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check.”

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