Party officials insist that the retirements -- 17 members of the House and six senators -- are simply the result of individual decisions and not indicative of a broader negative sentiment within the party. "I don't hear a drumbeat that 'We're not effective and I don't like it here anymore,' " said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.).
But with so many lawmakers -- including a large number from competitive states and districts -- heading for the exits, it's hard not to point to the GOP's new found minority status in Washington, the turnover in party leadership and the perilous political environment heading into 2008 to explain the exodus.
Or maybe it has something to do with that impending rule change that keeps Congressmen from lobbying for two years instead of the current one year period.
Nah, that couldn't be it.