CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Rep. Dan Boren's state and the office for which Rep. Joe Donnelly is running. Rep. Boren is from Oklahoma and Rep. Donnelly is running for Senate.
Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., will not seek reelection in 2012, according to a senior source, becoming the fourth moderate Blue Dog Democrat to head to the exits this year after a midterm election cycle that decimated their ranks.
(PICTURES: Who is Leaving the House?)
Ross was first elected in 2000 and is now Arkansas’s lone Democrat in the four-member House delegation. Ross’s retirement makes his House seat a prime battleground for 2012, one that Republicans believe they can pick up. The current district favored Republicans at the national level, voting 58 percent for John McCain in 2008. Under the state’s already-approved redistricting plan, it becomes slightly more Republican.
Despite his district’s preference for Republican presidential candidates, Ross won consistently by comfortable margins. He didn’t even face Republican opposition in two of the last four elections, a sign of his popularity. But he won 57 percent last year, his lowest total since his first reelection.
(PROFILE: Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark.)
Ross was singled out by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions and NRCC Vice Chair Greg Walden at a briefing last week as one of 12 House seats they believed they could defeat in 2012. The NRCC has also already run a radio ad in April against Ross after he didn’t vote in favor of a budget.
Ross has also expressed interest in running for governor in 2014, when current Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is term-limited.
Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., has already announced his retirement this year, while fellow Blue Dog member Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., is vacating his House seat to run for Senate. Former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., resigned her seat to head the Woodrow Wilson Center in February.
Meanwhile, Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., another Blue Dog, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the athletic director position at the University of Tennessee.