Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday that his party faces a “real challenge” in holding on to its majority in the House.
In an interview with Fox News that is scheduled to air Tuesday, Boehner predicted the GOP will keep control of the House, but sounded less certain than many of his Republican colleagues — and a number of nonpartisan prognosticators.
The Ohio lawmaker put the odds at 2-to-1 that the GOP will be running the House in 2013.
“I would say that there is a two-in-three chance that we win control of the House again but there’s a 1-in-3 chance that we could lose, and I’m being myself, frank. We’ve got a big challenge and we’ve got work to do,” he said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) struck a more optimistic tone last week when he predicted the GOP will pick up seats in November.
“I’m very bullish on the House,” Cantor said. “I am very confident that we will strengthen our majority.”
Boehner is worried that Republican donors will take the House for granted, and pour their money into the battle for the White House and the Senate.
A GOP aide familiar with Boehner’s decision to make the comment said the Speaker doesn’t want donors to become complacent, or less generous, in the effort to retain the new majority.
Former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Communications Director Ken Spain echoed that point on Twitter by offering a “translation” of Boehner’s remarks: “We feel very good but don’t want donors to stop giving.”
Boehner has expressed concern that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has gone toe-to-toe on fundraising with the NRCC this cycle.
Normally, the party that controls the House dominates the battle for cash. The DCCC, however, outraised the NRCC in 2011, though the Republican campaign committee has enjoyed a cash-on-hand advantage.
Political handicappers say Congress’s record-low approval ratings will certainly not help House Republicans, who vowed sweeping reforms following the last election. Most nonpartisan experts contend that Democrats will cut into Boehner’s majority, but not break it. They also note there are more than six months to go before voters head to the polls, an eternity in politics.
Democrats have stopped short of predicting they will take back the House, but they are expressing more confidence.
Earlier this month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the chances of the lower chamber flipping are greater than 50-50.
At a news conference in San Francisco, Pelosi said, “I would have said, two months ago, we had a 50-50 chance of winning the House. Since then, so much changed because women have shifted in large measure to the president and to the Democrats.”
Boehner told Fox News that his biggest worries are districts in Democratic-leaning states that would not be contested at the presidential level. In many, the local Republican parties are less organized.
“We have 50 of our members in tough races, 89 freshmen running for their first reelections, and we have 32 districts that are in states where there is no presidential campaign going to be run, no big Senate race, and we call these orphan districts,” he said. “You take 18 of them, California, Illinois and New York, where you know we’re not likely to do well at the top of the ticket, and those districts are frankly pretty vulnerable.”
History is on the GOP’s side. Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats to grab the gavel from Boehner, and they are playing defense in various districts in red states. And President Obama’s mediocre approval ratings have some Democrats worried.
Moreover, only once since World War II has the party in the White House gained more than House 15 seats in a presidential election year.
Yet, Democrats point to the recent history of the last three wave elections. In 2006, Democrats won the House by winning 30 seats, and two years later they picked up another 24. Republicans took back the House in 2010 by capturing 63 seats.
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) has repeatedly said the House is in play, predicting that it will be a “razor close” contest for the majority.
— Molly K. Hooper and Bob Cusack contributed to this report.
— Updated at 8:20 p.m.