MSNBC Interview with Rep. Tom Davis
MR. TODD: So what will we be talking about come this time tomorrow? Will it be a Democratic tidal wave, or will it be a Republican surprise? Congressman Todd Davis is a Republican from Virginia, but may be the smartest analyst of electoral politics in Congress. He's retiring from Congress this year. And I got Democratic strategist Bob Shrum sitting next to me.
Congressman Davis, I want to start with you. Chris Shays tonight, in a very tough election in Connecticut. If he loses, he will be the last Republican member of Congress from New England. What are you worried about with your party tonight as you see this sort of blue paint dripping from Canada southward?
REP. DAVIS: We've become a regional party, basically. You become a white, rural, regional party and not a national party. And we're going to have to retool ourselves.
And a lot of what happens then would depend on how the Democrats govern. You know, there have been high-water marks before where records get broken -- 1928 -- but governance after that, the South went back to a one-party South. We'll have to see what happens. But I suspect in urban areas across the country, Democrats will continue to make gains that they've made the last decade.
MR. TODD: Bob, we saw two big-wave elections, I guess, in your lifetime -- '64, LBJ, 1980, Ronald Reagan. LBJ's realignment didn't last, gone in four years.
MR. SHRUM: Right.
MR. TODD: Reagan's basically did for a generation. What does it take to make an elective realignment actually take place?
MR. SHRUM: Reagan's lasted for 28 years. I think this year is the end of it, in part because wholesale deregulation, redistribution at the -- to the top has been discredited. I don't think you know if there's a realignment until you're, like, two years into it.
MR. TODD: Yeah.
MR. SHRUM: I mean, if we remember Ronald Reagan, in 1982 he was having a very tough struggle in those congressional elections. And Ted Kennedy and I were out campaigning for Democrats. We got in the plane one day; he said, "You know, I think people actually like this guy and they like what he's saying and even though he's going to lose these congressional elections, he's going to go on and do very well in the next few years."
MR. TODD: And maybe why he didn't run in 1984, right?
MR. SHRUM: Well, his kids didn't want him to, but -- and he would have been the Democratic nominee.
MR. TODD: Congressman, do you feel that the Republican Party just struggled in having control of Congress or was it when they got Congress and the presidency that it made it very difficult?
REP. DAVIS: There's no question it was when we had everything and there was nobody else to blame. You know I headed the campaign committee in 2002. We were still able to blame the Democrats in the Senate, who frankly held up a lot of things going -- I would just say to my friend Bob Shrum that if, in fact, this is about wealth redistribution and an economic realignment, that the Fairfax, Virginias, Montgomery County, Pennsylvanias, and those areas that have been trending blue will trend right back again. We've been here before. If this is an economic realignment, you're not going to hold high-income suburbs.
MR. TODD: Very quickly, Congressman Davis, I know you watch these by county levels. What are you watching tonight? What's the first -- if you called me up and said I want the county results from these three counties around the country, what are you looking at first?
REP. DAVIS: Well, I'm going to want to look at the outer suburbs in Virginia -- Prince William, Loudon, Stafford County. I think if McCain carries Prince William and Loudon Counties, he will carry the state. If he loses them, he'll lose the state. These are generally the bellwethers. These have been traditionally Republicans. Bush performed well there. But they're becoming more multi-ethnic as you move out.
In Florida, you want to look at -- around Orlando and Orange County and Seminole and that -- and Central Florida and see how we perform there and what that means over the long terms. I would say your middle-class, upper-middle-class suburban areas.
And then when you get out into the Midwest, in Indiana, you want to make sure that Southern Indiana, which was traditionally Democratic, has -- you know, over the years has evolved into more conservative areas, are we holding our own there and what does this purport for realignment?
MR. TODD: Well, I really wish you weren't retiring. I'm worried you're going to be competing with us here, Congressman.
Bob, same question to you. What are the three things you're looking for?
MR. SHRUM: Well, if Indiana would, by any chance, early on go for Obama, we wouldn't say it on the air, no one would say it on the air --
MR. TODD: Right. Right.
MR. SHRUM: But we'd know what it meant.
Then you'd look at Virginia. Then, I think, you look at North Carolina and see if --
MR. TODD: Is there a -- is there are a specific region that you're -- you want, you know --
MR. SHRUM: Well, the I-4 corridor in Florida was where Kerry got killed last time.
MR. TODD: Yeah. Okay.
MR. SHRUM: We were ahead in the polls, lost the state.
And by the way, I think Tom's absolutely right. I don't think Democrats are going to move in some radically liberal direction --
MR. TODD: Right.
MR. SHRUM: -- but I think we are going to right the balance between government and the private sector.
MR. TODD: Bob Shrum, Congressman Davis, to be continued. Congressman, we look forward to you being an analyst here after January 3rd, buddy.
REP. DAVIS: Thank you.
MR. TODD: Okay.
REP. DAVIS: Good luck.