Moore and Baird are from suburban districts where their views on cultural issues have been a political asset. But in the gubernatorial elections last month in Virginia and New Jersey, suburban voters brushed aside cultural issues and voted for Republicans who ran against higher taxes and big government. That suggests that Democrats in suburban House districts can't expect to match Obama's 2008 showings next year.
These four Democrats are not the only House members who aren't running for re-election, but all of the 12 Republican retirees and all but one of the seven other Democratic retirees are leaving the House to run for statewide office.
The question now is whether more Democrats of this ilk will choose to retire -- something House Democratic leaders have been working to prevent. They're very much aware that Republicans in 1994 won some 21 open seats in which Democratic incumbents did not seek re-election, nearly half the 52 seats the Republicans gained when they won control of the House that year.
Public opinion expresses itself in the legislative process in various ways. Democrats' current large majority in the House, which has enabled them to pass unpopular cap-and-trade and health care legislation, is largely the product of public discontent with George W. Bush's perceived nonfeasance on Katrina in 2005 and perceived malfeasance in Iraq in 2005 and later.
These four decisions to retire, and similar decisions by other Democrats that may come, seem (for all disclaimers of personal reasons) to be the product of public discontent with the policies of the Obama administration and congressional Democratic leaders in 2009. Such discontent, perceptible only in the Jacksonian belt last year, has now clearly spread to the suburbs of major metropolitan areas.
The odds are still against Republicans picking up the 41 seats they need for a House majority. But it's interesting that when Massachusetts Democrat Michael Capuano, fresh from a second-place finish in the primary for Edward Kennedy's Senate seat, was asked to tell the Democratic caucus what he had learned on the campaign trail, he replied in two words: "You're screwed." How many of those listening decided that it would be a good idea to spend more time with the family after 2010?