By Mike Lillis - 11/04/11 12:17 AM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Democrats have a good shot at winning the House in 2012.
The former Speaker said her party — through smart recruitment and strong fundraising — is on pace to take back the lower chamber after just two years in the minority.
“We have definitely put the House in play,” she said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol.
“From a political standpoint, we’re very proud of the recruitment of candidates … all with the determination to take us off the path that the Republicans have put us on,” she said.
“Not to talk money,” Pelosi said, “but we outraised the Republicans for the first three-quarters of the year.”
Such statements can pay dividends, as Democratic donors will likely be more receptive to opening their checkbooks if they think the party has a fighting chance of winning back the lower chamber.
Putting Democrats back in charge, she added, “is urgent in terms of job creation and taking us to a path of prosperity.”
Republicans were quick to push back against Pelosi’s 2012 forecast, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) arguing that recent state redistricting measures will only benefit the GOP in the next elections.
“If you look at the redistricting that’s gone on around the country … 51 of our members won districts that were won by Barack Obama,” Boehner said Thursday. “At least half of those districts will be strengthened as a result of the redistricting process around the country.”
Republicans have “done a good job at home,” Boehner added, “and I feel confident that we will certainly maintain our majority.”
Paul Lindsay, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), also rebuffed Pelosi’s claims, saying in an email, “Returning to the Speaker’s chair may be a dream for Nancy Pelosi, but it is a nightmare for middle-class Americans who are still suffering from the job-killing policies she helped put in place.”
Lindsay declined to speculate about the number of seats in play, but suggested the Republicans will expand their majority next year: “The only number worth guessing is the amount of House Democrats who will lose as a result of supporting the Obama-Pelosi agenda.”
Yet The Cook Political Report, a well-respected campaign handicapper, indicates that many more Republicans are at risk of losing their seats next year than Democrats. Indeed, new ratings released Thursday reveal that 32 Republicans fall into categories indicating they’re threatened, versus 24 Democrats in those brackets.
While this is partly a reflection of the GOP’s success in 2010, when it won a number of swing districts previously held by Democrats, it also suggests the gains Pelosi and other Democrats think they can make in 2012, especially if the party gets a strong voter turnout with President Obama at the top of the ticket.
Additionally, Democrats have the fundraising advantage Pelosi mentioned, which has been a surprise given the House caucus’s place as a minority. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reported gains of $6.6 million in September, almost double the $3.8 million hauled in by the NRCC over the same span.
The DCCC has also held a strong fundraising advantage in the third quarter — posting gains of $14.2 million versus the NRCC’s $10.7 million — and for the year ($47.9 million versus $44.1 million).
“This is quite remarkable,” Pelosi said. “If we hadn’t been successful in the recruitment, and we hadn’t been successful in the raising of money, you might make a statement of how on earth do you think that you can win?”
Recent public opinion polls indicate that voters have a dismal view of Washington lawmakers. Just 6 percent of voters, for instance, think incumbents in Congress deserve reelection, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, while just 33 percent think their own member should be returned to Washington next year.
After taking control of the House in 2006, Democrats were walloped at the polls just four years later, losing 63 seats and ceding the majority back to the Republicans.
Pelosi repeatedly predicted last year that Democrats would retain the House.
House Republicans currently outnumber the Democrats 242 to 192, with one vacancy following the scandal-induced departure of former Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) over the summer.
President Obama has also predicted recently that the Democrats will take back the House next year.
“I am biased, but I think Nancy was one of the best Speakers of the House this country ever had,” Obama said Sunday after Pelosi introduced him at the National Italian American Foundation gala. “And I believe that she will be the best Speaker of the House again in 2013.”
On Friday — one year before the 2012 elections — DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) will meet with reporters to discuss the progress of the Democrats’ efforts to win back the lower chamber.
— Russell Berman contributed to this article.
— Originally posted at 12:27 p.m. and updated at 8:17 p.m.