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Top Democrats: House majority within reach

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — House Democratic leaders insist they have a fighting chance to pull off what outside analysts call a major long shot: winning back 25 seats to regain control of the chamber this fall.

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, told The Hill Thursday that he puts the odds at about 50-50, and said President Obama can influence the outcome.

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“If ... we come out of here holding onto the momentum that I see building, we get good performances from the president in these debates, we will have the wind at our backs and I think we will be able to do it,” Clyburn said after speaking at a panel hosted by The Hill at the Democratic National Convention here.

A number of election handicappers — including The Cook Political Report and Nate Silver of The New York Times — have predicted that the Democrats will pick up House seats in November, but not the 25 they'll need to take control of the chamber.

But the woman who wants the Speaker’s gavel back, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), brushed off the experts’ predictions.

“Absolutely not,” she said Wednesday when asked whether she agrees with the forecasts. “But I like them to think that and to keep telling Republicans that [to] lower expectations.

“Twenty-five is a very doable number,” she added, speaking at an event hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

Pelosi said there are 63 seats currently held by House Republicans in districts won by Obama in 2008, and of those, 18 were won by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) four years earlier.

“These are pretty good seats [to win] in a presidential election year,” she said.

“We've out-raised them, we've out-redistricted them … [and] we've out-recruited them,” Pelosi added. “We're not ceding one grain of sand.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), during the spring, put the odds of the GOP holding the majority the party gained in 2010 at 70-30 in its favor.

Clyburn also gave Obama some advice about his high-profile acceptance speech at the convention Thursday night, which will be a pivotal moment in his tight race against GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Clyburn said Obama should avoid covering some of the ground in former President Clinton’s Wednesday night address, and instead focus only on his vision and “how he plans to get us there.”

“I hope he will not spend any time repeating the, I think, very definitive explanation that President Clinton gave as to why we are where we are. If he just goes forward enunciating a vision, I think we will be in good shape,” Clyburn said.