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Ex-Rep. Davis: GOP Will Be Defined by 2012 Nominee

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Former Rep. Tom Davis, seen here at a 2002 press conference, said the 2012 cycle will be a referendum on President Barack Obama.

Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) told reporters Wednesday that what Congressional Republicans do in the next year and a half matters less for the 2012 elections than how the eventual Republican presidential nominee handles his own race.

“The parties really will become defined and become branded by their presidential candidate,” Davis said. “You’d be surprised how, for the next year, maybe 14 months, the focus is on Congress, and then all of a sudden it shifts to the presidential race, and voters’ minds, in terms of locking in on the party and branding it, will go around who that presidential candidate is.”

Davis, now the president and CEO of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, said the 2012 election cycle will be a referendum on President Barack Obama.

“If he’s doing a good job, you probably can’t beat him if he’s got things under control,” Davis said. “And if things are going bad — unless the Republican candidate becomes the target of the campaign and becomes the center of the race, it’ll be a referendum on the president.”

Davis served seven terms in the House, including two cycles as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He said each election cycle depends on the mood of the voters.

“When people are happy, they’ll re-elect incumbents,” he said. “If they’re mad, you don’t know where they’re going to go. This time they turned pretty much against the Democrats, but they turned against Republicans in primaries.”

Davis said the Republican Main Street Partnership will have more members in the 112th Congress than ever before. Though the group is still signing up members, it already has 49 on board, including nine freshmen, according to a list the group provided. They are Reps. Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Nan Hayworth (N.Y.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Jon Runyan (N.J.) and Steve Stivers (Ohio). Rep. Charlie Bass (N.H.), who was defeated in 2006 but won election again in 2010, is also a member, as is freshman Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), who joined the group when he was a Member of the House.

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