House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says Democrats are aiming to regain control of the House of Representatives in 2012, but their mission is getting a lot harder. On Monday, liberal hero Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced that he won't run for re-election, ending a colorful, 16-term career. Frank isn't alone. So far, 17 House Democrats have decided to bow out next year. Eight are going for bigger political jobs, but nine, including Frank, are simply retiring. Seven House Republicans are opting not to seek re-election, but every one of them is running for higher office. Are Democrats streaking toward the exits out of fear?

Yes. Democrats know they're in trouble: Barney Frank has "a massive amount of seniority," says Jazz Shaw at Hot Air, so he stood to gain "a lot of power and influence" if Democrats took back the House. He would "doubtless be back" if he thought Democrats could convince voters that they would do a better job than the GOP. Frank's "sudden exit" suggests that liberals, despite their bravado, "have pretty much given up hope" of winning with an unpopular President Obama topping their ticket.
"Barney Frank — exit stage left"

This doesn't prove anything... yet: "It's not quite panic time for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Nine flat-out retirements is "still far less than the exodus that generally occurs after a party loses House control," as Democrats did in last year's midterms. Democrats might indeed give up hope if the economy gets worse and "Obama's numbers continue to languish," but, for now, "the jury is very much out."
"Barney Frank's exit signals growing Democratic retirements, but not yet an avalanche"

Republicans are the ones who should be worried: Sure, many Democrats are retiring, says Celinda Lake at Politico. But new Democratic candidates will still win most of these seats. In fact, if Republicans had any sense, they'd be wishing for more retirements of their own. With the anti-incumbent fever rising this election cycle, Democrats want to run against entrenched GOP politicians "who have such an atrocious voting record and who are firmly tied to the failure of Congress."
"Barney Frank among more Dems to exit?"