Dennis Ross of Florida is quitting his Florida House seat to spend more time with his family. This is more terrible news for a Republican party that needs good news.
The headlines today are focused on Speaker Paul Ryan finally quitting, but Dennis Ross of Florida is also important. Ryan and Ross both have two things in common: They’re Republicans, and they’re quitting without announcing plans for higher office. As I said back in September:
Not all retirements are a bad sign: Sometimes incumbents retire to run for another office. That’s ambitious, and it’s not a bad sign. It’s a bad sign when they just quit. Just quitting means they already know they’re going to lose, so they get when the getting is good. That or they know they’re going to lose the majority, and so they quit before it stops being fun.
Ross and Ryan are the 23rd and 24th Republicans to announce their retirements after this Congress, without any plans to run for higher office. By contrast, only 8 Democrats are quitting without going for something bigger. Do the math, and that’s a net 16 retirements the Republicans are having to defend from the Democrats.
The last time any party had that many net retirements to defend was in 2008, when Republicans lost 21 seats and the majority after a net 20 retirements. Before that? 1994. Democrats had a net 19 retirements before losing 54 seats and the majority.
At 16, Republicans aren’t quite yet in the red zone. But they’re getting close.