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Obama's 2010 nightmare: razor-thin Democratic win

February 18, 2010 |  7:43 am

Obama

Tom Davis knows a thing or two about politics. The former Virginia Republican once headed up the National Republican Congressional Committee, which recruits, trains and supports GOP candidates for Congress.

Now retired from the House, Davis is teaching at George Mason University and leading the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership. He sat down Wednesday with Top of the Ticket and a small group of other reporters to handicap the 2010 elections.

His take: barring a major shift in the winds that now favor the GOP, "there will be Republican tsunamis" in the outer suburbs and among blue-collar whites who, he noted, proved critical to Republican Scott Brown's upset Senate victory in Massachusetts.

The good news for Democrats: "At least they're not Toyota." In fact Davis praised Maryland's Chris Van Hollen, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, for recruiting "self-funders," candidates who allow the Democratic Party to use its resources elsewhere while forcing Republican opponents to spend big bucks.

Speaking of money, Davis thinks it's the key to everything. Asked about the political potency of the Tea Party, he said Republicans would be wise to keep activists within the party's tent, to corral their electoral energy. "The Tea Party started a parade and now all of these politicians are trying to get in front of it," he said. But he doubted the movement could become a viable third party without attracting big dollars. "We're talking about tea, not latte," he said.

Obviously the congressman does not realize that the Starbucks Nation has moved on from Lipton. Still, he did bring first-hand experience to the stakes for President Obama in the 2010 election.

Citing the 1994 mid-term elections, Davis said the historic capture of the House by Republicans allowed President Clinton to pick and choose issues -- like welfare reform -- that could corral votes on both sides of the issue. "The worse thing for Obama would be razor-thin Democratic margins," he said, noting that in that scenario, neither camp would have political motive to work with him.

Davis, who passed up a Senate campaign in 2008 before retiring from the House, said he was enjoying life after Congress. Recently he bumped into former Virginia Republican George Allen, who was coasting to reelection in 2006 before being caught on camera issuing a racial epithet against one of his opponent's staffers. Allen asked Davis if he planned to take on Democrat Sen. Jim Webb in 2012.

“He kept saying, ‘I hear you’re running for the Senate.’ I told him, ‘Why would I do that?’… I told him, ‘George, it’s a disease. It’s Potomac fever.’ "

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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