Former Rep. Tom Davis (Va.), a top Republican strategist and former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, said Wednesday that his party is benefiting from favorable political atmospherics and excellent candidate recruitment. But he also praised the fundraising prowess of vulnerable Democrats and the political skills of Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is in charge of defending his party’s majority.
Davis, who served in the House from 1995 through 2008 and now heads the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, said the upcoming election would be “the third straight nationalized Congressional election,” following GOP debacles in 2006 and 2008. With Democrats now in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, the 2010 election “is a referendum on the Democrats, pure and simple,” he said.
“For incumbents who might have been popular, all of a sudden they’re not running on their reputations and their names and their achievements — they’re tied to the national winds that are blowing at this point,” Davis said. “That’s why you see some of these retirements.”
Davis noted Republican victories last November in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections and last month in a special Senate election in Massachusetts. Republicans in those races made gains in the outer suburbs, he said.
Davis said the NRCC, which he headed in the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, has produced “the best recruiting year in history.” He also praised the candidate recruitment efforts of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is aiming to significantly erode the Democrats’ 59-41 majority in the Senate.
Davis acknowledged some assets for Democrats — including Van Hollen, who is again chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after overseeing the party’s net gain of two dozen House seats in the 2008 cycle.
“I just have a very high regard for his political skills, and he’s been through it once,” Davis said.
Davis noted that the Democrats, who won competitive special elections last year in Republican-held districts in New York, “have shown they know how to run campaigns.”
He said many of the House Democrats’ most vulnerable Members have large campaign treasuries. All but six of the DCCC’s 42 “Frontline” program members had at least $500,000 in their campaign accounts at the beginning of this year.
One top battleground this year is Davis’ home state of Virginia, where at least three Democratic incumbents will face competitive races.
Two Republicans are vying to oppose Rep. Gerry Connolly, Davis’ successor in the 11th district. Freshman Rep. Glenn Nye has half a dozen challengers. And eight candidates are opposing Rep. Tom Perriello in the 5th district, where he won one of 2008’s biggest upsets.
“I don’t think anybody should underestimate him,” Davis said of Perriello.
Republicans are still looking for a candidate to challenge Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who has dominated his southwestern 9th district even though it is substantially more conservative-leaning than any of the other three districts.