Prominent GOP candidates are turning down offers to run against vulnerable Democrats in Congressional elections. Even though they could probably win the election in their particular districts, they do not want to serve in an ever-shrinking minority party that has little power in the Senate and no power in the House.
Last week, former Gov. Tom Ridge (R-PA) announced that he will not run for the Senate next year against new Democrat Arlen Specter:
“I am enormously grateful for the confidence my party expressed in me, the encouragement and kindness of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania and the valuable counsel I received from so many of my party colleagues. The 2010 race has significant implications for my party, and that required thoughtful reflection. All of the above made my decision a difficult and deeply personal conclusion to reach. However, this process also impressed upon me how fortunate I am to have so many friends who volunteered to support my journey if I chose to take it and continue to offer their support after I conveyed to them this morning how I believe I can best serve my commonwealth, my party and my country.”
The decision dramatically increases the chances that Democrats will hold that newly-acquired seat since no other potential GOP candidate was anywhere close to Ridge's stature. Arlen Specter will likely retain the seat.
Tom Ridge was just the latest in a string of prominent Republican recruits to decline runs for the Senate and House next year. Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) has declined a bid for President Obama's old Senate seat. Like Ridge, Kirk was clearly the GOP's best candidate in the state. Now, it seems highly unlikely that the GOP will wrest control of the seat away from the Democratic nominee (which will probably not be the current 'junior Senator from Illinois' Roland Burris).
In April, two other top Republicans opted out on House bids against freshmen Democrats. First, Florida GOP chair Jim Greer (R) declined to take on freshman Representative Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) in Florida's 24th Congressional District. Second, former Representative Thelma Drake (R-VA) declined a rematch against freshman Representative Glenn Nye (D-VA). Both were huge losses for the National Republican Congressional Committee which had hoped to narrow the Democrats 79-seat majority in the Congressional House of Representatives.
Top GOP recruits who could run against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) have already declined to run, as did former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) for the open Republican-held Senate seat in Florida. Florida Governor Charlie Crist (R) has indicated an interest in running for that seat, but Crist is a moderate and will refuse to walk lock-step with an obstinate, oppositional Congressional minority - so he may not win the primary against a more right-wing conservative who, in turn, will likely lose against a Democrat. Bill Konopnicki (R-AZ) actually came out and said he isn't interested in serving in Congress unless Republicans could take back the majority in the 2010 elections.
As a result of poor recruiting, Republican numbers will likely continue to be decimated in the Senate and House. This creates a situation in 2012 and beyond in which their desired outcome of growing the party and regaining their power will be impossible to attain.
This is a very, very bad dynamic for the GOP indeed.
Why is this happening? Why is the GOP continuing to shrink? See my answer in the post just below.