By Nathan Sermonis
With this week’s announcement by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, prospects of a more united Congress grew a shade darker. Snowe’s plan to retire at the end of this year brings the casualty count this Congress for Senators widely seen as moderates to three – Snowe, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. And the situation looks just as, if not more, worrisome in the House.
Add to this the announced retirements of Blue Dog Democrats, a group known for moderate positioning, Rep. Heath Shuler, D-NC, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-CA, as well as uphill battles for many moderate Republicans and Democrats around the country facing difficult reelection bids, and next year may bring an even more polarized legislature.
The ever-changing sway of voter opinion will, of course, play a role in the makeup of the new Congress, as was the case in the last election where moderate Democrats were swept almost en masse from the House due to their vulnerability in moderate districts and blowback from discontent electorates. But it can be argued that this did not, overall, so drastically alter centrist numbers because Republican victors in moderate districts – such as Charles Bass, R-N.H., and Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., both members of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership – answer to the same moderate voting population as their predecessors. And, as many new moderate members have demonstrated in their statements and votes over the last Congress, they are aware of this precarious position.