Pelosi says Democrats aim to win 35 House seats in 2012 elections

Vowing that Democrats will win back the House this year, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said the party is gunning to pick up 35 seats.

Democrats would need to steal 25 seats from Republicans in November to take control of the lower chamber after two years in the minority, but Pelosi said party leaders are eyeing a 10-seat cushion. Expected gains in a handful of key states — including California, Illinois, Texas, New York and Florida — make that goal attainable, Pelosi argued.

"In those five states, we come very close to picking up most of what we need — the 25," Pelosi said in an interview with Politico at the Newseum in Washington. "We need more than that, but come very close to what we need, the drive for 25 that takes us to 218.

"I want 35," she added, "so we need more to get that done."

Pelosi said President Obama will energize Democratic voters in those large states, but she noted a strategic distinction between the presidential and congressional contests.

"If you want to win the state state-wide, you go to the inner city, but our races are beyond the inner city. We understand that dynamic," Pelosi said. "I was a state chair in California — I know if you want to win the state, you do one thing; if you want to win the Legislature, you do another."

Aside from Obama's bully pulpit, Pelosi said the Democrats have other advantages heading into November's elections. She maintained the Democrats have "out-raised," "out-redistricted" and "out-recruited" the Republicans. The last factor, she added, is "the most important part."

"You have to have a candidate," she said. "Over 30 [Democratic challengers] are women. We have a large number of Hispanic candidates. It's really a very mixed group."

Pelosi also pushed back against the notion that Obama's strategy of running against Congress could backfire on congressional Democrats. She said it's clear the president's criticism is aimed at the Republicans who have tried to block almost every major piece of legislation the Democrats have brought to the floor.

"I am all for it," Pelosi said of Obama's message. "He's running against the do-nothing Congress and he really should. This is a Congress that has done such a disservice to our country."

This story was posted at 10:35 a.m. and updated at 11:34 a.m.