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Moderate Democrats Are Becoming Extinct

North Carolina's Mike McIntyre, who announced his retirement Wednesday, is one of just 15 Blue Dog Democrats left in the House.

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Democrats face a steeper path toward retaking the House of Representatives following news that Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., won't run again for his GOP-leaning seat.(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Another moderate House Democrat will retire in 2014, deepening Democrats' struggle to win back the chamber in the next election, and further weakening the declining moderate Democratic brand in the House.

North Carolina's Mike McIntyre will not run for reelection in 2014, he announced on Wednesday. (Politico first reported the news.) He and Utah's Jim Matheson, who is also retiring, are two of just 15 Blue Dog moderate Democrats left in the House. Two terms back, the Blue Dogs comprised an influential bloc of 54 members. As measured by National Journal's 2012 vote ratings, McIntyre and Matheson are the two most conservative Democrats left in the House, and Matheson's retirement also left Democrats with very little chance of retaining his seat.

Four moderate Republicans from swing districts have also retired recently; Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., became the latest on Monday. That and former Florida Rep. Bill Young's death in October have left five of the 30 most Democratic-leaning districts held by Republicans open in 2014. Matheson and McIntyre represented two of House Democrats' three most Republican-leaning seats.

 

The departure of leading aisle-crossing lawmakers makes it even harder for bipartisan legislation in this incoming Congress.  After 2014, both parties will have even fewer members with an incentive to appeal to moderate, independent-minded voters.

McIntyre, a nine-term conservative Democrat, won reelection by fewer than 700 votes in 2012 after his 7th District was redrawn to be more Republican, while Mitt Romney won nearly 60 percent of the district's votes in the presidential race. Republicans grudgingly praised McIntyre's cultivation of a conservative image that year, and without him to defend the seat, the GOP is much more likely to win it in November.

2012 GOP candidate David Rouzer has been running again for months, and one county commissioner from either side of the aisle is also eyeing the seat. But others—especially ambitious Republicans—may take a second look at the 7th District now that McIntyre is out of the way.

 

Democrats need to net 17 districts to take back control of the House of Representatives, but McIntyre and Matheson's retirements steepen that path.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., who is receiving treatment for lung cancer, will also retire, she said Wednesday. But her Long Island district is more safely Democratic: McCarthy won by 30 percentage points in 2012, when President Obama carried the district by 13 points.

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