North Carolina's Mike McIntyre will not run for reelection in 2014, he announced on Wednesday. (Politico first reported the news.) He and Utah's Jim Matheson, who is also retiring, are two of just 15 Blue Dog moderate Democrats left in the House. Two terms back, the Blue Dogs comprised an influential bloc of 54 members. As measured by National Journal's 2012 vote ratings, McIntyre and Matheson are the two most conservative Democrats left in the House, and Matheson's retirement also left Democrats with very little chance of retaining his seat.
Four moderate Republicans from swing districts have also retired recently; Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., became the latest on Monday. That and former Florida Rep. Bill Young's death in October have left five of the 30 most Democratic-leaning districts held by Republicans open in 2014. Matheson and McIntyre represented two of House Democrats' three most Republican-leaning seats.
The departure of leading aisle-crossing lawmakers makes it even harder for bipartisan legislation in this incoming Congress. After 2014, both parties will have even fewer members with an incentive to appeal to moderate, independent-minded voters.Cameron Joseph reports at The Hill:
“The mass exodus of moderate Republicans coupled with the retirements of Blue Dogs mean there will be fewer and fewer members of Congress representing a district that voted for a president of the opposite party. That means more ideological purity and less compromise,” one Democrat with deep ties to the party’s centrists said.
There are just seven incumbent House Democrats running for reelection in 2014 in districts President Obama lost in 2012, and 13 Republicans running in districts he won.
The trend of disappearing centrists has been going on for decades, but it accelerated starting in 2006 and 2008, when Democrats intentionally and effectively targeted middle-of-the-road Republicans in left-leaning seats, wiping them out in suburban districts nationwide and especially in the Northeast.
Republicans returned the favor in 2010, wiping out Blue Dogs and other centrist Democrats in rural red districts, primarily in the South. Redistricting and gerrymandering by both parties before the 2012 election only further shrank the number of swing districts around the country.
That has had a big policy effect. For instance, of the 34 Democrats who voted against ObamaCare, four are still in Congress and running for reelection.