Congressional Republican Puts Positive Spin on GOP Losses

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

(1st Add: Includes comments by House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt.)

( - Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, put a positive spin on the Republicans' loss in his home state. Taking a look at all the state and local races together, he said, the GOP outpolled Democrats in Virginia. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Davis said, "We did better yesterday than everybody was [predicting] that we were going to."

He said Democrat Mark Warner won the Virginia gubernatorial election by running as a Republican, and he believes outgoing Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore should remain in his position as head of the Republican National Committee, where he will now start concentrating on the midterm congressional election of 2002.

Davis philosophically assessed the elections in Virginia, New Jersey and New York City in this fashion.

"You always know more the day after an election than you do the day before, and this is no exception. I think the results show that if you've got a lot of money, it helps," he said. "If you are a Republican running as a Democrat in a Democratic city like New York you can still win."

On the New York mayor's race, Davis believes outgoing Mayor Rudy Giuliani's popularity in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks helped Michael Bloomberg win.

"Giuliani made it easier for people to vote for a Republican. Bloomberg said he was liberal. Obviously in New York on some issues you have to be. You turned on the World Series in New York and Bloomberg was on more than Derek Jeter," he said.

Davis thinks the Democratic National Committee dropped the ball on the New York mayor's race.

"If they had poured a little extra effort into that race for Green, it would have given him more (voter) penetration. I don't think they saw it coming. The DNC was too busy writing their victory speech for this morning and they completely missed New York. They gave no support to their candidate who was outspent," he said.

Even though Mark Earley lost the Virginia governor's race to Democrat Mark Warner, Davis feels the Republicans did the best they could in that race.

"We (Republicans) didn't abandon our candidate in Virginia, and we ran a close race. But here you had a Democrat running on a Republican platform in a Republican state, and he (Warner) spent gobs of money. The attorney general's race was won by a Republican. So when you pull all the statewide races together, the Republicans outpolled the Democrats," he said.

Davis was impressed by the Republican gains in the Virginia legislature.

"We picked up 12 states in the legislature. It just shows what a good gerrymander can do. It's the way you do it. Virginia did a great job on that," he said. "But we got most of the seats we should have gotten. It wasn't an automatic, because there were some good Democratic candidates around the state."

New Jersey Republicans were able to split control in the state Senate, Davis said. "That was a result of a redistricting that helped the Democrats. Because redistricting matters in these races."

Other factors against Republicans in New Jersey was the acting governor failing to endorse Republican gubernatorial candidate Bret Schundler as well as the Schundler campaign failing to unite the Republican Party.

Davis also thinks it did not help the GOP that the Schundler campaign ran on a platform that was out of touch with New Jersey voters.

House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) said economic issues played a significant role in Tuesday's elections.

"I think winning 32 of 34 mayor races, winning the governorship of Virginia and New Jersey is an indication. Those candidates all ran on local and economic issues," he said.

"And I think it shows the Democratic Party has real grounding on those issues and is talking about things that make sense to people, and -- like unemployment insurance and like helping people who are unemployed be able to get their health insurance," Gephardt added.

"It also tells me that the traditional Republican message of tax cuts and cultural issues is probably not resonating right now. People are focused on security. They're focused on safety. They're focused on the economic security issues. They're worried about their own job. They're worried about unemployment. They're worried about health insurance," he said.