The Republican who successfully steered his party’s majority in the U.S. house through two successive national elections voiced his worry this morning that the GOP could lose its majority in the House "if the present environment persists."
"We could lose the House," said Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee from 1998-2002 and now chairman of the House Government Affairs Committee. At a Washington DC breakfast for reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Davis — whose signature encyclopedic knowledge of congressional districts commenced "with him memorizing the names of all 435 House Members when he was in the 7th Grade," according to the Monitor’s Dave Cook — cited developments in Irag, what the troop levels may be in the fall, the climate of scandal in Congress, and what he called "the new wrinkle with Fannie Mae" as ominous signs for his party as it seeks to retain its 15-seat majority in the House.
"The final chapter’s still got to be written," Davis told the assembled reporters at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, "I don’t where it’s all going but it’s not a good environment for a Republican Administration. And unless the environment changes, we may be in for a long election night."
The Virginia lawmaker, a Member of the so-called "Gingrich class" first elected in 1994 when Republicans won the House after forty years, discussed the ongoing FBI investigation of Rep. Bill Jefferson (D.-La.) and search of his office by agents, the immigration bill ("That’s the issue everybody’s talking about, the hottest issue out there"), and his own efforts to give the District of Columbia a full vote in the House. He also referred to Iraq as "the elephant in the living room" for his party this year. But most often, the conversation returned to the midterm elections and what self-styled "political junkie" Davis felt about them.
Davis admitted that the environment could change, and recalled how Democrats had a "similar problem" with their base in 1998 that Republicans now have in this midterm election cycle. "But Republicans over-reacted and over-reached," he noted, recalling the efforts of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and others to make a major issue out of reports of Bill Clinton’s involvement with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. "The Democratic base came alive in October and we wound up losing five [House] seats that year."
Looking ahead to the special election June 6th in California’s 50th District to fill the seat of disgraced former Republican Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham, Davis would only say that the race in the heavily Republican district "is very, very close." He specifically criticized some Republicans for waging a primary race against GOP special election nominee Brian Bilbray on the same day that Bilbray faces Democrat Francine Busby for the remainder of Cunningham’s term. "It’s very confusing," said Davis, who also said it doesn’t help the GOP effort when the anti-illegal immigration Minute Men have endorsed an independent candidate in the race.
But instead of saying his dark election-year picture was in cement, Davis added that while results might not be good for the GOP now, "we’re not there [Election Day] yet." Quoting hockey great Wayne Gretsky, Davis concluded that it depends "where the puck is going to be" in November.