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Martin Frost, Tom Davis say House majority is in play this fall

By Felicia Sonmez

Former Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Martin Frost (D-Texas) -- both of whom chaired their party's respective campaign committees -- agreed that the House majority is in play although they disagreed about likely Republican pickups in a joint appearance on the ABC/Washington Post "Topline" program today.

Davis, the former Virginia Congressman who led the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, predicted Republicans would win 50 seats while Frost, the Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman in 1996 and 1998, said a 30-seat loss was in order for his party but added that larger losses were possible.

The two most influential congressional handicappers largely agree with the two former Members' analysis. The Cook Political Report currently projects a pick-up of 32 to 42 seats for Republicans in the House; the Rothenberg Political Report predicts that Republicans are likely to pick up 25 to 33 House seats.

Republicans need a 39-seat gain this fall to take back control of the House. The last time that many seats changed hands was in 1994 when Republicans won 53 Democratic-held districts. In 2006, Democrats netted 30 seats.

Frost said comparisons to 1994, which are everywhere these days, are somewhat off base.

"Democrats are doing something that they didn't do in 1994 when we lost the House, and that's have candidates who are prepared and understand they have real races, and that's why the money does make a difference," Frost said.

He did acknowledge, however, that President Obama's unpopularity in some parts of the country means that he won't be campaigning for Democratic candidates in certain regions. "You're not gonna see him in the South, and you won't see him in some of the Midwestern districts," Frost said.

Davis focused on the fact that the playing field for Republicans is far wider than in recent elections and predicted that the coattails of Republicans that are way ahead in some states may aid others in more competitive races.

"I would just say, in some of these states where you have a Republican candidate running way ahead, watch for some coattails," Davis said. "Look at Arkansas governor's race right now. Nobody's not even on the map. But the Senate race is gonna be so big, the turnout differential so huge, you get a lot of straight-ticket voters."

Frost and Davis agreed that Republicans would try to cast the midterms as a referendum on the Obama administration while Democrats would portray it as a choice.

Davis discounted the effectiveness of Democrats trying to "demonize" their opponents by using the "choice" argument in a broad spectrum of races.

"In a lot of these races, the Republican candidates are a little bit green," Davis said. "They're gonna go off-message, and if you can demonize your opponent, you can overcome the wave that's coming through, and that's what they'll try to do. You can't do it, though, in 70 races."

By Felicia Sonmez  |  August 2, 2010; 6:30 PM ET
Categories:  House , Senate  
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