Do the Democrats have a chance of taking back the House in 2014?
As the midterm elections map begins to take shape, “Top Line” sat down with two political minds from opposing parties to get their predictions for the year ahead in politics: Former Texas Rep. Martin Frost, who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and former New York Rep. Thomas Reynolds, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“No,” Frost replied when asked if this is the year the Democrats take back the House of Representatives.
Both former congressmen offered advice for the candidates of their respective parties now revving up campaign efforts.
Reynolds expects the midterms to be largely a referendum on the Obama administration, but, in agreement with Frost, cautioned Republicans from planning to simply “ride the Obamacare horse the entire year.”
“I think you ride it for as long as you can ride it,” Reynolds said. “And if it subsides, they better be on some new issues on what their agenda's about; and if not, they can continue to ride it.”
Frost, meanwhile, advised Democrats to avoid overly associating themselves with President Obama.
“Remember all politics is local,” Frost said. “Talk about local issues, talk about your identification with the district, don't get tied to the Obama administration.”
While the Democrats may have to fight off negative associations with the Obama agenda, Frost said, the GOP has a problem of its own: the Tea Party and whether the Speaker of the House can “keep a lid” on them.
“If [John] Boehner can successfully keep a lid on it and not let them do crazy things, then the Republicans have a pretty good shot at picking up seats this time,” he said. “But if, somehow, Boehner loses control of the Tea Party folks and the public decides these guys are nuts … then the Democrats could have a decent year.”
A potential curveball political issue, which both Frost and Reynolds agree will come into play, is the economy.
Should the economy continue on a trend of recovery, Frost said, it will reflect well on the president and, consequently, help the Democratic candidates nationally.
But, he continued, “That’s a big if” and advised candidates to “keep an eye on the stock market” as indication of the public’s outlook on the economy.
“So many people have 401(k) plans now – much more than 15-20 years ago – that are so invested in what the market does for their retirement,” he said. “If the market does okay, that helps Democrats, I think; if the market tanks, that's real trouble.”
Reynolds voiced skepticism about the reliability of the economic recovery and said that, even with a consistent economic climb, it may not be enough for Democrats’ success on Election Day.
“We've just come through a holiday season that's not showing me that anyone's spending change is in full throttle here,” he said. “I don't think the economy is going to be enough for the Democrats, but I would also not spend all my time as a Republican on that, because … it's just emerging.”
And as for those political early birds hoping that March’s special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. Bill Young, R- Fla., will provide an early glimpse of what’s in store for November, Frost and Reynolds shot down the notion.
“You can't base anything on what happens in a special election,” Frost said – an assessment that Reynolds echoed.
“I hate special elections,” Reynolds said. “All indications are that the Democratic candidate is in good stead to reclaim the seat after 40 years of Bill Young there, but you can't use it as a bellwether.”
To hear Frost and Reynolds’ predictions on how many seats their respective parties will pick up in the midterms, check out this episode of “Top Line.”
ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Melissa Young, and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.