House Minority Whip Hoyer this afternoon predicted next year's elections would be less dominated by security issues than the 2002 elections, and Democrats could win the House in 2004 if they get the political wind Republicans received in 1994. "We're
going to need some kind of that [wave]," Hoyer said, predicting many Democratic challengers would emerge later in the election cycle. "We're going to have a number of candidates win that today are not on the radar screen." During a political roundtable, Hoyer said the national electorate has a history of surprising political forecasts and said voters in 2004 may want a "check" to complete GOP control. Hoyer said Democrats would need more than a 12-seat net pickup to reverse the Republicans' current 229-205 margin, predicting Republicans would court potential party switchers. "If they win the White House again -- we have to have a little bit of a margin. We need to win 14 or 15 seats."
Hoyer said the surprising third quarter gross domestic product growth was driven by "deficit spending" and not GOP tax cuts, and said the economy remains volatile and that a "jobless recovery" would cost Republicans votes. "I'm sure they have a very significant concern that jobs are not following," he said. Hoyer said national and homeland security issues would not dominate the election like they did in 2002. "That's just not going to be the case. It's going to be a much more complex election," Hoyer said, adding voters would scrutinize the Republicans' domestic record. "Leave No Child Behind won't be a slogan. It will be a failure in policy," he said, referring to Democratic charges that Republicans have failed to fund their centerpiece education initiative. Hoyer said his endorsed candidate, Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., or any of several top Democratic contenders could win the presidency next year.
Democrats this cycle are "rationalizing primaries," Hoyer said, by picking favorites in House Democratic contests. Hoyer identified candidates in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Washington as top challengers next year. "We have had some successes around the country," Hoyer said. "I'm finding a more responsive, more focused group of people running for office." He touted Coconino County Supervisor Paul Babbitt, running against Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.; Polk County Magistrate Rick Crawford against Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.; Athens-Clarke County Commissioner John Barrow against Rep. Max Burns, R-Ga.; and basketball scout Jon Jennings, against Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind. In the seat of vacating Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., Hoyer cited Spokane businessman Don Barbieri.