How Does 2010 Political Climate Compare to 1994 GOP Midterm Wave?

BY Quinn Bowman and Linda Scott  October 27, 2010 at 11:00 AM EST



In 2010, all the polls and predictors indicate it will be a good year for the Republican Party: they have a good chance to regain control of the House of Representatives and stand to gain at least a handful of Senate seats.

Political handicapper Charlie Cook predicts Republicans will see a net gain of 48 to 60 seats in the House — well above the 39 seats they need to retake control.

The last time Republicans did that was in 1994 when they gained 54 seats — and the PBS NewsHour took a look at how the dynamics at play now compare to what it was like then, when the GOP’s “Contract With America” and dissatisfaction with President Clinton and the economy allowed Republicans to regain control of the House for the first time since the 1950s.

We spoke with two people intimately familiar with that time period — former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican, and former Texas Rep. Martin Frost, a Democrat — for their views on some striking similarities and differences between the two political climates, 16 years apart.

Davis said 2010 is similar to 1994 in that the popularity of the president and Congress is down – and both are held by the same party.

“There’s no question where this election is going, the question is how far is it going?” Davis said. “How deep is the penetration going to be in the Democratic incumbency?”

Frost warned Republicans not to get too confident.

“If the Democrats are scared, then the Democrats are working hard and they’re going to do everything they can to win,” he said. “If Republicans just kind of do a victory lap before the election, they may find themselves on the outside looking in on Nov. 3.”