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Republican Goals for 2006: Avoid Retirement?

One of the biggest pitfalls Republicans must avoid this year can be summed in one word: Retirements.

That’s because while it’s darn near impossible these days to oust an entrenched incumbent Member of Congress, winning an open seat is much more realistic.  

For example, let’s take the seat vacated by Duke Cunningham.  

Under normal circumstances, Cunningham would easily have won re-election. However, due to his departure, the race to replace him is now viewed as only "likely" Republican.

Even if we keep Cunningham’s seat, Republicans will have to expend resources to defend it.  And every dime we spend defending Cunningham’s seat is a dime we can’t spend somewhere else.  

That’s just one race. But according to The Hill, the GOP could see 10 to 15 more retirements in the coming months…

Of course, Cunningham didn’t just decide to "retire," he was forced to step down.  But some members do decide to retire on their own. This usually happens when things aren’t going so well for their political party. Members of Congress start to wonder whether or not it’s worth the hassle to run for re-election every two years.

The real danger is that it’s contagious. There is a domino effect.  Like a mad rush on a bank during a recession — retirements can beget retirements. The logic goes like this: Every retirement makes it less likely your party will stay in the majority, thus, you decide to retire.

For example, in 1993, what started out as a trickle of retirements ended up with more than twenty Democrats retiring. We know how things ended up for them in ’94.

It’s one thing to be beaten, it’s quite another to surrender.  

My message to Republicans who might be tempted to retire this year: "cowards cut and run, Republicans never do."

Written By

Mr. Lewis has managed political campaigns and served as director of grassroots for the Leadership Institute, as well as political director for GOPAC. In 2002, Campaigns & Elections magazine selected him as a "Rising Star of Politics." He is the author of "Teaching Elephants to Talk." His blog can be read at MattLewis.org.

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