DCCC Chief: ‘Couple More’ Retirements Possible -- But No More Party Switchers

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Despite a recent spike in retirements , top House Democrats say they’re still confident that they’ll avoid a “wave” of departures that would jeopardize their hold on Congress.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee , said there might be a “couple more” House Democratic retirements this year -- but not a number that approaches the 28 retirements that helped Republicans win control of the House in 1994.

“I’m not sure exactly what the pattern’s going to be, but what I do know is we’re not going to see a wave of Democratic retirements like we saw in 1994,” Van Hollen, D-Md., told us.

“Let’s put this in perspective: As of right now this year we’re below the average number of retirements in the House on a two-year cycle. If you go back to 1994, you saw a high number -- 28; we’re talking about 16, 17 retirements [on average in an election cycle]. We’re right now at 12 -- maybe there’ll be a couple more.”

Regarding the announced retirements of veteran Democratic senators Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan, Van Hollen said: “To take those two numbers and somehow say that there’s this snowball going on around the country is just I think dead wrong.”

Van Hollen also pointed out that more Republicans House members have announced their retirement than Democrats at this stage, and flatly declared that no Democrats will follow Rep. Parker Griffith in becoming Republicans : “I’m confident that you’re not going to see people switching parties. Look, people don’t like finger-in-the-wind politicians. They don’t like people who decide just which way the winds are blowing at any particular moment. Look, we know he took a poll but we also know from talking to people down there, he could have won as a Democrat. I think it was a big miscalculation. He’s going to have a tough time in a Republican primary.”

He also jumped on RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s recent remark that Republicans are unlikely to take back control of Congress -- and may not be ready to do so in any event.

“Michael Steele, in a moment of clarity just the other day, acknowledged that the Republicans aren’t going to be taking back the House, and even questioned their ability to govern in the unlikely event that you know, lightning struck and they were there,” Van Hollen said. “I mean, he knows that they aren’t ready. His comment raised real questions about turning back the clock and giving those guys the keys to the car once again.”

And Van Hollen disputed suggestions that 2010 worries will impact President Obama’s agenda: “I think we are going to have a majority on health care reform. We’re going to hammer out some differences between the House and the Senate. We will have the bill to the president’s desk.” Watch the full discussion with Van Hollen HERE .

Also on “Top Line” today, we checked in with Ana Marie Cox of Air America on the Democratic retirements and the emerging 2010 landscape -- including the enthusiasm gap Democrats are looking to overcome. Watch that discussion HERE .

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