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.

Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, December 10, 2013. Fresh winter snow moved into the US mid-Atlantic region on Tuesday, shutting schools and offices in the nation's capital and elsewhere as the mid-section of the US remained in the grip of Arctic air that showed no signs of easing.
National Journal
Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
Jan. 8, 2014, 8:22 a.m.

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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