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Dispensing with his customary game face, Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds flashed a big smile and almost shouted, "Good morning" when he greeted reporters Wednesday morning.

And no wonder. The Clarence Republican rewrote the political record book Election Day as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

He ran a campaign that will bring at least 231 Republicans to the House in January -- the largest total since 1946. A majority in the House is 218 votes. And the number might grow to 233 when results from Louisiana are complete. He revised other benchmarks, as well.

While national commentators were pushing sweetness and reconciliation with the Democrats after a bruising campaign, Reynolds offered the minority party defiance and brickbats.

The Democrats were "demoralized" by their House losses in the election, Reynolds said in a statement, and the defeat was "personally damaging to Nancy Pelosi," the Democratic House minority leader from California.

The scorn leveled at Pelosi may have been payback for her attacks on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, over his problems with the House Ethics Committee.

Pelosi's targeting of DeLay didn't work any better than the Democrats' claim that Republicans wanted to impose a national sales tax, Reynolds said.

The Ethics Committee's three citations against DeLay will have "absolutely zero" effect on the majority when the time comes to re-elect him leader next month, Reynolds said.

Reynolds brushed off reporters' questions about whether the strengthened GOP House majority should try to work more closely with the Democrats in a spirit of reconciliation.

"There are green lights in America," Reynolds said about the Republicans' domestic agenda. "It's full speed ahead."

The agenda will be set, Reynolds said, during the House GOP's retreat next month. But President Bush has already signaled that he wants Congress to move forward with reform of Social Security and Medicare.

Erie County Republican Chairman Bob Davis said the achievements of the three-term congressman elevate Reynolds another rung or two on the House leadership ladder.

The House GOP's stunning success under Reynolds, who is 54, places him firmly on track to become a key leader when House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., retires.

"This is the first time in history House Republicans increased their majority two elections in a row," said Reynolds, with portraits of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, looking over the crowd in the posh Capitol Hill Club.

"This is also the first time a Republican (Luis Fortuno) has been elected a delegate from Puerto Rico," he said.

A meat-and-potatoes operative, Reynolds praised Bush for helping House GOP candidates with money and other support, but Reynolds said no national issues were involved in returning the biggest majority in 58 years.

"We built all the campaigns on local issues and from the ground up," he said. "There were no (presidential) coattails."

"Tip O'Neill was famous for saying 'all politics is local,' " said Davis, referring to the late Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill of Massachusetts. "This saying should now be attributed to Tom Reynolds."

"I said our goal was re-electing all 229 Republicans," Reynolds said. "And we brought in 231, and we may have two more from Louisiana."

"He's the hardest-working politician I've ever known," said Davis. "He loves politics and campaigning. That's what he does to relax. If we're having a family dinner or cookout that's how he relaxes. He talks politics."

Even so, Reynolds said little about a key race he hoped to win, New York's 27th District, other than he felt Republican County Comptroller Nancy A. Naples' call for a recount of her loss to Democratic Assemblyman Brian Higgins of Buffalo would not change the result.

Reynolds' own margin of victory was shaved from 74 percent in 2002 to just 56 percent Tuesday night in his race against Democratic industrialist Jack Davis of Akron.

Through Oct. 13, Reynolds had spent $1.2 million in the race, to Davis' $1 million in the heavily Republican district.

Reynolds said he has no plans to relax any time soon. There may be a lame-duck session of Congress before the party's retreat.

After Congress is sworn in, Reynolds said he hopes leaders will make him a full-time voting member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee "so New York will have a member on the committee." He said he would be willing to give up his membership on the House Rules Committee.

Asked whether he's willing to put another two years in as chairman of the campaign committee, Reynolds went back to his game face.

"I'm still mopping up on 2004; after that we'll see," he said.

Washington Bureau assistant Anna L. Miller contributed to this report.


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