By Molly K. Hooper - 09/09/12 06:11 PM EDT
GOP lawmakers say that former Rep. Artur Davis, the Democrat-turned-Republican who ripped President Obama late last month, has a bright future.
The ex-Alabama legislator earned superstar status with his “lessons learned” oration directed at independent voters on day one of the Republican convention in Tampa.
He called the address a “second chance” aimed at “the estimated 6 million of us who know we got it wrong in 2008 and want to fix it,” a reference to voters who supported Obama but may not do so this election.
Virginia Republican officials are pleased that Davis relocated to the Commonwealth and joined them in the fight to elect the GOP presidential ticket in the battleground state.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told The Hill that Davis has a “bright future” in Virginia politics.
The Richmond-based lawmaker called Davis’s speech on day one of the GOP convention “awesome.”
“I have met with him, I have spoken with Artur several times, and I’m really excited to have him as a Virginian and we’ve got big plans for Artur,” Cantor said.
There is a lot of speculation that Davis will run against Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) in 2014.
Davis told The Hill that he considers Cantor to be “an old friend … we have certainly talked about my helping other Republicans win races in Virginia.”
In his public renouncement of Obama — who Davis endorsed in a speech to the Democratic convention four years ago — the former lawmaker provoked ire from his ex-colleagues in the House.
Some accused the failed one-time Democratic Alabama gubernatorial contender of political opportunism.
On the day of his speech in Tampa, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) sent a scathing letter to Davis, a former CBC member.
“We have come to the disturbing conclusion that your recent public statements have no basis in real policy or political disagreements, but rather they stem from transparent opportunism and a personal determination to overcome failing to win the Alabama Democratic primary for Governor in 2010,” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and 13 other senior CBC members said in the letter.
And Davis faced a contentious situation on the night of his address when he appeared on CNN following the keynote speech by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ann Romney.
CNN analyst Roland Martin was quick to pounce on Davis, who he accused of committing “political fraud.”
“Why didn’t you apologize that you voted with the Democrats and the president 95 percent of the time? …Why didn’t you take ownership of the fact that you were one of the folks who’s championed this president, you used his face and name in ads running, and then when you didn’t win the Democratic nomination for governor, then you got ran out of Alabama and so you chose to flip into Virginia?” Martin said.
“Roland, I wish that when I was serving in Congress in 2009 and 2010 I wish I had been more outspoken about the Obama agenda. I was outspoken about one part of it, the healthcare law,” said Davis, a former prosecutor who voted against the bill.
Asked to respond to the scene that unfolded on live television with Martin — who continued to press the former lawmaker, Davis told The Hill “when journalists get so passionate they lose their objectivity, viewers notice and they tune out the shouter who is all but foaming at the mouth.”
Asked if he intended to challenge Connolly in the next cycle, Davis said his “plans are to help Chris Perkins this fall, who can and should beat Connolly.”
Perkins won the primary to take on Connolly in the district that took on more Democratic voters in the wake of redistricting this year. Connolly is seen as the clear favorite in that race.
Connolly did not respond to requests for comment.
Privately, GOP officials with knowledge of the situation tell The Hill that Republicans have directed resources elsewhere this cycle for several reasons, including the new blue voters in the northern-central Virginia district.
But as a Democrat-turned-Republican, Davis has the potential to attract independent voters.
Before making such a leap to GOP congressional candidate however, Davis needs to “earn his stripes,” and continue making the case for Mitt Romney, according to a Republican analyst.
“Artur’s very attuned to not just what people think but how people think, given their busy lives. He’s a fantastic political talent. There’s no question about it and he has an opportunity here,” Virginia political operative Ford O’Connell said.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) couldn’t say whether Davis intended to run against Connolly in 2014.
“I can’t answer [if Davis will run for Connolly’s seat]. I’ve had great conversations with him. I like him. We had a good relationship when he was in the House,” Forbes said.
Davis said he has not discussed the matter with Cantor.
“[Cantor] has been very encouraging, but we have [had] no specific discussions about [my] own political future, and won’t until these elections are over,” Davis explained.
For the next two months he will be busy with “an active speaking schedule around Virginia,” stumping for Romney.