Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) predicted Thursday that the GOP will lose little ground in the 1986 election, but Senate Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said he expects his party will take control of the Senate.
“As of today, we’re in great shape. There won’t be any change” in the Senate, Dole told the American Society of Newspaper Editors. In the House, he predicted “minimum loss, maybe even a slight gain.”
The Republicans now control the Senate 53 to 47 but must defend 22 seats in November. Seven seats have been vacated.
Tough Races Seen
Dole and Byrd said Florida, Idaho, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Dakota would be tough races, but Byrd was ready to predict a Democratic victory in all of those states but North Carolina. He also said the Democrats would win in Oklahoma, where voters are concerned over farm and energy policies.
“We need four to win on paper but five really to win and I think we’ll get that,” he said.
In a separate speech, Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee A. Iacocca, often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, said he has no aspirations to become the nation’s chief executive.
“I wish all you people in the room would stop it because you’re making my campaign staff nervous,” joked Iacocca, who was introduced to the newspaper executives as “one of Detroit’s more original models.”
Iacocca Urges Gas Tax
Iacocca campaigned instead for a 15- to 25-cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline at the pump, saying it would help industry plan ahead and keep the country from losing its independence by “getting hooked” on cheap energy as it did twice in the 1970s.
When prices rise again, such a tax could be withdrawn, he said, and until then, “it’s a quick $25 billion” for the government.
Dole told the editors that Republican prospects this year have improved in recent months due mostly to an easing of the farm crisis and the fact that some promising Democrats have decided not to run.
He said plummeting oil prices may cause a problem but predicted a victory in oil-dependent Louisiana, where Sen. Russell B. Long is retiring.
Dole said President Reagan’s promise Wednesday to hold his schedule open in September and October to campaign for GOP candidates would be helpful.
The annual Washington meeting of ASNE, an organization of 900 American and Canadian newspaper editors, ends today.