Updated: 6:18 p.m.
Former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) on Wednesday bemoaned the potential for more gridlock in Congress with the election of tea-party-backed candidates.
“I don’t see the likelihood of anybody coming to the middle,” he said at a pre-election briefing sponsored by the law and lobbying firm DLA Piper, where Martinez used to work.
The former Senator explained that many of the Democrats’ typical Republican allies — such as Sens. George Voinovich (Ohio) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — are retiring or have lost primaries to more conservative candidates.
Martinez, a moderate Republican, said that many of these lawmakers will be replaced by individuals who are supported by conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who he said, “has not often been spoken of in the same breath as compromise.”
Martinez, who serves on JPMorgan Chase’s executive committee, later said that he was not suggesting that DeMint will harm the Republican Party. But he added, “He defines success differently than I do.”
DeMint, Martinez said, thinks it is better to lose elections and retain principles than to win with compromised convictions.
“He’s taken a contrarian view that this year has had success,” Martinez said.
While he expressed concern about gridlock, Martinez also said the election of more Republican Senators will force the Democrats to work more closely with the GOP, even if it remains in the minority.
Others on the panel said they worry about the effect of increasing partisanship on Capitol Hill.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who is a senior adviser at DLA Piper, said he was concerned about an environment in which party leaders are more focused on who will be in control of the chamber than on dealing with issues.
“We have to learn how to govern,” Daschle said.
Another panel member, GOP consultant Alex Castellanos predicted a large Republican wave in the midterms, saying many voters want to slow down Obama’s agenda.
“This has become a brake pedal election,” said Castellanos, who is a principal in the communications firm Purple Strategies.
But Castellanos said the election has clearly hurt mainstream Republicans. He noted that outside forces have “eaten the establishment Republicans for snacks.”
Castellanos added that this trend could hurt Mitt Romney’s potential presidential bid in 2012, since the former Massachusetts governor is viewed as an establishment candidate.
Steve McMahon, a Democratic strategist with Purple Strategies, offered his take on what he thinks will be an upset on Election Day. After inquiring if there were any reporters in the room, McMahon said there is a possibility, although one he said is unlikely, that West Virginia Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin would be defeated in his bid for the Senate seat formerly held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D). Although Manchin is a popular governor, he is in a tight race with Republican businessman John Raese.