Former GOP Rep. Davis: Dems Likely to Pass Health Care; Need 'Something to Show'

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: The biggest question for Democrats in the wake of yesterday's health care summit is a simple matter of math : Can congressional leaders -- and specifically House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- get the votes they need to pass health care reform without Republican support?

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and a close observer of the political landscape, told us he’s pretty sure Pelosi will wind up getting the votes she needs, even if that means having to further scale back health care ambitions.

“I do. I think the stakes now are so high,” said Davis, who now heads up the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership . “They’ve rolled the dice that they’re going to just appeal that the whole Congress is just going to go up … ‘if we don’t get this, it could be 60 seats [lost by Democrats]. I mean, I think that’s the appeal they will use to members.”

“I’m not sure, by the way, that’s the right reasoning, but I think that’s what they use. They’ve elected to move ahead with this and they’ve got something to show. I think it’ll be a minimalist bill,” he added.

How does Pelosi, D-Calif., get members of Congress who voted no last time to vote yes this time?

“You make the team argument. You get the president. You get them in a room, you get the ‘rah-rah’ spirit up there, and you have them vote before anybody can talk to them.”

Davis said he doesn’t foresee much of a political backlash if Democrats use special procedural maneuvers to ease passage of the bill: “I don’t think so. I think if you’re a Democrat, you better have something to show for this.”

Davis also said Republicans stand a decent chance of picking up the 39 seats they need to take over control of the House.

“I think it’s going to be competitive over who carries the House, but it’s not a done deal,” he said. “You have to run campaigns. A lot can happen in the next six months. … What you have to give the Republicans credit for is they’ve had the best recruiting year in history.”

But he credited Democrats with putting together an effective campaign team in House races.

“I think they do a very good job at running their races, getting their candidates money,” Davis said. “If you take a look across the board, [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman] Chris Van Hollen, who’s going through this a second time -- very, very able, very smart. … None of these members are going to roll over easy. The problem they’ve got is this is a nationalized election. This is not going to be a bunch of local elections where a few pork projects are going to reelect you. So, they’ve got to change their branding a little bit, and they’re going to have to center themselves.”

For Democrats, Davis said, “if it’s a choice, you’ve got a fighting chance. If this is a referendum on what they’ve done, there’s not a lot they can do at this point except try to move with their agenda. I think the tax issue is a huge vulnerability for them at this point.”

If he was setting the betting line in Las Vegas, he said, the over-under at this point would be 30 seats picked up by Republicans.

Watch the interview with former Rep. Tom Davis HERE.

Also today, we chatted with Politico’s Jonathan Martin about the health care landscape, Gov. David Paterson’s decision not to seek a full term, and the ethics rebuke issued against House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y. Watch that segment of “Top Line” HERE.

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