Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ramstad - another bad sign for the GOP

I met Jim Ramstad a few years ago, while he was doing a walkabout at my employer's - a major donor of his. He was a bit of a puzzle; an intelligent if misguided man who ran with the GOP. He owned the 3rd district, a suburban zone west of Minneapolis. His retirement is great news for the Dems, and another bad sign for the GOP (emphases mine):
Ramstad's exit sets off a scramble in 3rd District

Citing fatigue and political isolation, U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad triggered a scramble by potential successors with a surprise announcement Monday that he is retiring from Congress next year after nine terms.

Ramstad, 61, had barely finished announcing his decision when at least five potential candidates declared an interest in going after his seat while other potential hopefuls were mentioned..

...He said he has grown tired from the relentless physical grind of service in Washington and weary of being a lonely centrist in an increasingly polarized legislative body.

... The congressman called himself one of the last of a "dying breed of Republican moderates." He has increasingly called on Washington politicians to "work in a more bipartisan and pragmatic way," as he put it Monday. "People need to put aside the harsh rhetoric on both sides of the aisle."

Although Ramstad has long easily cruised to reelection, he warned that the Third District "is not a safe Republican district," pointing out that Bill Clinton won it twice, John Kerry almost won it and it currently has more DFLers in the Legislature than Republicans.

... About a month ago, during a session at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Ramstad said he had been feeling increasingly isolated in his party as it has tacked to the right.

... Ramstad said he has no plans to return to politics. Instead, he wants to teach and work with people suffering from chemical addiction and possibly work a stint in academia.

He is now cosponsoring the mental health "parity" legislation with Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., whom Ramstad has been mentoring since Kennedy's high-profile car crash, which was related to prescription drug use....

... He broke with his party five times this year in key votes, most notably against the troop surge in February. He voted with Democrats to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over the next two years, to allow the government to negotiate directly with drugmakers for lower prescription costs and to implement recommendations by the 9/11 Commission.

He also voted for a bill that would repeal tax cuts to oil companies and fund renewable energy programs.

He voted with the GOP against a troop reduction in July and for funding for the war without withdrawal deadlines in May.
Ramstad basically voted as a Clinton Democrat, I wonder if he ever considered switching parties. The Dems could never have defeated him for that district, but now it's definitely in play. If nothing else, it will suck GOP resources to defend it.

It's a measure of the fall of the GOP that it's losing its last highly electable centrists. The next election may take them to the point where they either reform or become irrelevant. I'm hoping for reform -- the Dems without a rational opposition would be like Apple without ... errr ... like Apple 2007.

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