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Analysis: The drip, drip, drip of Democratic retirements 

Analysis: The drip, drip, drip of Democratic retirements 

On Tuesday, California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier said she would retire next year after almost 15 years in Congress.

Neither seat should be a problem for Democrats to hold. Vermont went for President Joe Biden by 35 points in 2020 — his largest margin anywhere in the country. And Speier’s Bay Area 14th District gave Biden a whopping 89% of the vote last November.

    The bigger issue for Democrats then is not keeping those seats on their side. It’s that a steady drumbeat of retirements from within their ranks — especially in the holiday period leading up to Thanksgiving and then Christmas — is not at all what they want as they try to hold onto their slim majorities in the House and Senate. 

      Congress is like high school. Everyone is looking around to see what everyone else is doing — and then adjusting their behavior accordingly.

        That doesn’t mean that a Democratic member who has never considered retirement will see the likes of Leahy leaving and think now is the time to go.

        But, for members who are undecided about whether or not to go for another term, retirements from within the Democratic ranks can impact their thinking. If it feels like a lot of people are deciding to walk away, there is often a momentum effect that sweeps up on-the-fence members.

          And lots of those undecided members will be making go/no-go decisions in the next few weeks. As The Washington Post’s Paul Kane noted last month:

          “The holiday season, from Thanksgiving through Christmas and into the new year, serves traditionally as a gut-check moment for lawmakers.

          “From 2011 through 2020, the final two months of the off year and January of the election year have prompted the most retirement announcements for members of the House, according to data compiled by Ballotpedia.”

          Which is why Democrats have to hope that tomorrow — or the rest of this week — doesn’t bring any more retirement announcements.

            The Point: Politics is a copycat business — right down to the decision of when to retire. Democratic leaders need to make staying in Congress look as good as possible these next few weeks.

            CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story wrongly described Rep. Jackie Speier’s congressional seat in one instance. Speier is a member of the House of Representatives.