There’s a striking number of House members giving up their seats this year, but not every incumbent lawmaker is trying to exit politics. For example, of the 38 House Republicans who aren’t running for re-election this fall, roughly a third are running for statewide office.
The trouble is, those efforts aren’t going especially well so far.
This week, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R), widely seen as a strong contender in Idaho’s gubernatorial race, came up short in a GOP primary. He has plenty of company: Rep. Robert Pittenger (R) lost in a House primary in North Carolina; Reps. Todd Rokita (R) and Luke Messer (R) both lost in a Senate primary in Indiana; and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) lost in a Senate primary in West Virginia.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) won their respective Senate primaries, but both prevailed by smaller-than-expected margins, despite strong support of Donald Trump and party leaders.
Slate’s Josh Voorhees explained yesterday that, looking ahead to November, the results are a potential sign of trouble for the Republican Party.
The early losses are another troubling trend for the GOP, which is betting on House Republicans to win a half-dozen key statewide races this fall at the same time the president has made “Washington” an even dirtier word among conservatives than it already was. […]
Four congressional Republicans are currently running for governor, two of which non-partisan handicappers believe have, at best, even odds of preserving GOP control in those states. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are betting on a handful of House Republicans to win high-profile races that could decide control of the upper chamber in November.
And as we discussed last week, the fact that current House GOP lawmakers are running into trouble isn’t just unexpected; it’s also a departure from the historical norm.
It’s easy to assume that Congress is always unpopular, so its members might struggle when seeking promotions, but the opposite is true. A recent Washington Post piece noted, “Historically, House members have been perceived by voters as being the most qualified for promotion to the upper chamber. Many Republican senators came over from across the Capitol.”
Quite right. In fact, longtime readers may recall from our coverage four years ago, during the last midterm cycle. Congress wasn’t held in high regard at the time, and the House was a radical and dysfunctional mess, but voters nevertheless rallied behind Republican House members such as Cory Gardner (Colo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Bill Cassidy (La.), James Lankford (Okla.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), and Steve Daines (Mont.), each of whom won their Senate races that year.
This year is proving to be a little different – and not in a way that will help House Republicans running for re-election sleep any easier.