Former Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, the architect of previous Republican campaign successes, says outer-suburban voters eager to place a check on President Obama and Democrats are swinging back to the GOP and will power a Republican resurgence in New England, while aiding GOP “tsunamis” in Virginia, Colorado and Iowa.
Mr. Davis, the current president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of the party’s more moderate lawmakers, told reporters Wednesday that the GOP has had its best-ever year of recruiting candidates for congressional elections, which has helped put so many seats into play.
He said Democrats are having a tough time reaching a balance of keeping regular voters happy while also appeasing the liberal voters who surged to the polls in the 2008 election.
“Those are the problems Democrats have coming in. The surge voters right now, they’re asleep. And the outer suburbs, the South, the mountain states, I think you can look for Republican tsunamis,” Mr. Davis said. “You’re going to have big years.”
A sign of how bad Republican fortunes have been the past two elections is their ouster from New England, where the GOP no longer holds any House seats. But Mr. Davis said Republicans will capture seats there this year, including both New Hampshire districts.
On Wednesday, Mr. Davis’ predecessor at the Main Street Partnership, former Rep. Charlie Bass, said he’ll run to try to recapture the House seat from New Hampshire that he lost in 2006 to Rep. Paul W. Hodes. Mr. Hodes is vacating the seat to run for the Senate.
Mr. Bass, who must face a bruising primary, drew immediate fire from New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, who said running a repeat candidate was bad news for Republicans.
“The last thing we need right now is to go back to the policies that Bass’ record represents. Charlie’s call for a U-turn to those failed policies shows how grossly out of touch he is with the need to move our country forward and get our economy back on track,” Mr. Buckley said.
Democrats are eagerly watching primary battles such as the one Mr. Bass will fight with candidates born out of the “tea party” movement.
“The GOP civil war is alive and well and it’s playing out in House races all over the country,” said Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Mr. Davis acknowledged those intraparty battles, and said the tea party movement is a real force in politics, though it’s not clear how that plays out. He said they have a message, but without money they won’t be able to make much noise.
“The tea party people have started a parade and now you have all these politicians trying to jump in front of the parade,” he said.
The congressman said if Republicans gain fewer than 25 seats in the House it would have to be considered an upset, and they start with an assumed gain of five or six Senate seats though he cautioned that the atmosphere could tilt back in Democrats’ favor over the next nine months.
Mr. Davis ran the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, and helped Republicans buck history by winning seats in the midterm elections when their party also held the White House.
From 1995 through 2008, he represented a seat in Northern Virginia, but when he retired the seat was won by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat.
Mr. Davis said that and two other Virginia districts won by Democrats in the last election will be major tests this November.
“They’re in difficult situations because the more they separate themselves from Obama and the Democrats the harder it is to drive up that surge turnout that elected them in the first place,” he said.
He said he expects the Main Street Partnership will add dozens of new members next year from among the new Republicans elected, and said even some lawmakers who win races running to the right in 2010 will move toward the middle when they see how their districts line up.
Mr. Davis said the worst situation for Mr. Obama next year would be if his party keeps slim majorities in both chambers because then he’ll still be on the hook for producing results, but without much chance to push through his agenda.
As for Republicans, he said, their greatest challenge this year is to avoid major manifestos that could alienate potential voters, and allow those voters to focus on Democrats who control the levers of power.
“What you want to do if you’re Republican right now is you want to have everybody that’s ticked off at the administration, you want them under your banner. You’ll fight about policy afterwards, but let’s get our people elected,” he said. “This is a referendum on the Democrats, pure and simple.”
He said Rep. Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who has put forth a plan to balance the budget by making major changes to Social Security and Medicare, was gutsy, but putting out those sorts of policies will give Democrats a target and force the election to be a choice, rather than a referendum.
Over the past several weeks, Democrats have demanded that Republican candidates say whether they support Mr. Ryan’s plan or not.
“When we make these elections a choice between Democrats, they’re fighting for middle-class families and making progress on the economy, and Republicans, who are just trying to turn back the clock on failed George Bush policies, Democrats win,” said Mr. Rudominer.
As for his own plans, Mr. Davis said, he’s not looking at running against Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, in 2012, but added that his statement was not a Shermanesque denial that he would never run.