Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is sounding the alarm: Trump is blowing up her party.
The number of retiring House Republicans has now hit 31 the largest mass midterm exodus by a single party since Democrats fled from Newt Gingrichs House takeover in 1994.
These retirements are driven by a real fear of political retribution, as Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who is retiring from a seat the GOP considers unwinnable explained to The Hill reporter Scott Wong.
“In many districts like Darrell’s and mine, having President Trump, an ever-present figure, is a drag on the ticket,” she said. “The Trump symbol, the Trump brand and Mr. Trump himself is a drag on moderate tickets.”
Ros-Lehtinen is no doubt correct that Trump is killing Republican chances in well-off, educated suburbs that traditionally leaned red.
In 2016, even as Southern California GOP congressmen retained their districts, Orange County voted Democratic in the presidential race for the first time since the Great Depression. Now, most of the down-ballot Republicans there are down in the polls, too.
But it would be overly simplistic for GOP lawmakers to chalk up the entirety of their failures to Trump. Their own legislative priorities have been tremendously unpopular.
In Virginia, for example, voters who rejected Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie cited not just Trump, but also his party’s attacks on health care. It was the agenda of the Republican congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, which these voters were rejecting as well.
Essentially, this political environment is hostile to Republicans on all fronts. And the frantic dash to leave office ahead of the storm proves that they know it.