THE next House Republican leader, Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, forecasts a GOP gain in the 1994 elections of 15 to 70 House seats.
``You have the potential for something between a pretty good year and an incredible year,'' he said at a Monitor breakfast yesterday.
The Republicans would need to pick up 43 or more seats for a House majority, giving them control of its leadership and committee chairmanships. A more neutral observer, Charles Cook of the Cook Political Report, estimates that Republicans will pick up between 15 and 20 seats. But many others are predicting a bigger GOP gain.
Even if Republicans do not take control of the House of Representatives, substantial gains in their numbers shift the balance of power in an era when many initiatives need bipartisan support to pass. Mr. Gingrich is minority whip, and will succeed the retiring Robert Michel of Illinois as minority leader next year.
He has stopped arguing that 40 years of power in the House has totally ``corrupted'' its Democratic leadership, he says. He still believes it, but has been convinced that it cannot be communicated, that people just think he's ``gone nuts.'' Still, when asked, he says that the Democratic Congress is a corrupt machine that has crushed dissent among its freshman members and wields power ruthlessly.
Republicans will do especially well electorally this year, he says, if the Federal Reserve continues to hike interest rates, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D) of Illinois is indicted, and President Clinton's scandals escalate.
But Republicans should be spending 95 percent of their efforts on building credible initiatives that respond to public concerns such as health care and decaying cities, Gingrich says, and 5 percent on demanding full disclosure and hearings on matters such as Whitewater.
Republicans need less preparation in foreign policy, where the party already has credibility, he says. In foreign affairs, ``there's a level of sloppiness about this administration that's scary.'' He adds: ``Even when they do the right thing they do it badly,'' as in Somalia.
If Republicans have not formed a unified front in countering Clinton policies, it's because Mr. Clinton's own policy shifts come so fast. ``It's like following along behind somebody who is going through a store knocking things over.'' Gingrich allows, however, that no one ``in either party has articulated a vision of what America's role in the new world is.''