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The Democratic retirement floodgates just burst open

CNN logo CNN 12/21/2021 Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 21: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol Building on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Speaker Pelosi discussed a range of topics including the status of the negotiations for the Build Back Better agenda. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) © Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 21: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol Building on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Speaker Pelosi discussed a range of topics including the status of the negotiations for the Build Back Better agenda. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced Monday that she will not seek a fourth term in Congress, the latest in a rapid series of retirements within the Democratic ranks that suggest momentum is moving heavily against the party as it seeks to hold on to its razor-thin majority next November.

Murphy's decision came less than 24 hours after New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires said he would be retiring at the end of this Congress. And, just before the Sires' news, California Rep. Alan Lowenthal said he, too, would be stepping aside

All together, there are now 22 Democrats retiring or running for other offices this election cycle as opposed to just 11 Republicans doing the same.

Two years ago, just nine Democrats had announced their retirement plans at this point of the election while 24 Republicans had done the same, according to CNN's political unit.

While there will always be some amount of attrition in a chamber as large as the House, the "who" is leaving should worry Democrats.


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Take Murphy. She is widely regarded as a rising star within the party and was expected to run for Senate in 2022 until fellow Rep. Val Demings (D) got into the race against Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

Her 7th District has been targeted by state House Republicans in the Florida redistricting process but it was not yet clear what the final seat would look like. Without Murphy in the race, Republican map-makers will likely work to make the seat considerably more friendly to their side.

Losing a member like Murphy -- a prodigious fundraiser and a talented campaigner -- is always a blow but more so in an election like this one where Democrats are clinging to their majority. 

Ditto retirements of powerful chairs like John Yarmuth (Budget Committee) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (Science, Space and Technology Committee).

When these sorts of members walk away -- either from powerful posts or promising careers -- it send a very clear signal to every single member of the Democratic caucus: Things are bad, I don't see them getting better and now's the time to head for the hills.

And that message, of course, has a snowball effect as other members wondering about whether to run again see that their colleagues have concluded now is the time to go and jump ship themselves.

The Point: House Democratic leaders have worked desperately to avoid a rush to the exits from within their ranks. It appears they have failed.

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