Rep. Bart Gordon becomes the fourth Democratic member of Congress in a month — the second “Blue Dog” from Tennessee — to announce his retirement in 2010. Like Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), who announced his retirement last week, Gordon represented an old-line Democratic seat whose voters increasingly went for the GOP’s presidential and Senate candidates; the district went for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008 by a margin of 62 percent to 37 percent for Obama-Biden. And while, as in Tanner’s district, Democrats are trying to get a credible local office-holder into the race — and sources tell me they knew this was coming — they have traded a safe seat for a toss-up race.
One long-term effect I see here: There are going to be a number of deep red areas where, in 2010, prospective presidential candidates can happily stump for Republican nominees. In 2009, Republicans in New Jersey and Virginia were skittish about bringing Sarah Palin into their blue states. But Palin, a laughable figure among non-Republicans, would be a massive draw in a rural Tennessee district that went nearly two-to-one for her ticket. Come election night 2010, Palin and a lot of other 2012 hopefuls will try and take credit for any red state or red-district GOP gains. It’s what Richard Nixon did in 1966, stumping in districts that briefly turned blue in the LBJ landslide, and basking in gratitude when, unsurprisingly, Republicans won back the seats.