One of the advantages of working in the big, soulless office building that houses the Time Washington Bureau is the fact that I occasionally bump into former Texas Congressman Martin Frost on the elevator. (He’s the kind of guy who will always hold the OPEN DOOR button for you.)
Frost, who headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at a bleak time for his party, sees things from many angles: He is both a Fox News contributor, and the recently named president of America Votes, a big 527 that aims to mobilize liberals in next year’s election. This morning, he was musing that retirements in congressional politics are like the flu–they are contagious. And he thinks the number of Republican House members who have announced they are not seeking re-election has fundamentally changed the calculus for next year’s elections; rather than losing seats, due to the vulnerability of some of the Democratic freshmen, Frost now believes his party will pick up seats in the House next year.
Few know better than Frost what it feels like to be on the losing end of that equation. Here’s his advice for the Republicans.
UPDATE: Commenter JBK asks:
Er, did anyone predict the Democrats were going to lose seats next year, even before the GOP retirements were announced?
Commenter Judgement jumps on the snark wagon with:
Wow, thank you Captain Obvious!
So let’s recap: Democrats were indeed warning earlier this year–at least privately–that they expected to lose House seats in 2008. History alone would suggest that parties that enjoy big pickups in midterm elections are in fact vulnerable to losing them in the next round, though not as much so as those that make those gains in presidential years. An actual pickup, as Frost is now predicting, would be rare, especially in recent cycles. Here’s an interesting chart.