Top Democrat Sees Republicans Losing House in 2012

Party campaign chief predicts 2012 victory by two seats.

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If the most conservative Democratic election prediction comes true in 2012, Nancy Pelosi is just 19 months away from grabbing back the speaker's gavel from Republican John Boehner.

While he's not ready to boast about a victory yet, election math provided by Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, suggests that Democrats will win back the House next year with a two seat majority. "It's going to be razor close," says Israel. "The House is going to be in play."

Israel argues that last week's special election of a Democrat in the Republican New York district near Buffalo was a sign that election politics are changing for the better for Democrats, who need 24 more House seats to take back the majority they lost in the 2010 elections. "It was a real shot in the arm," he says. [Read Democrats play offense with medicare in NY 26.]

Talking numbers, he addresses how the Democrats will be able to win back control. First, he predicts that his endangered "frontline" Democratic candidates will win reelection. Then, claiming to be conservative in his predictions, he says that the Democrats will win back eight of the 24 seats Republicans hold in districts won by Barack Obama and John Kerry. And he says that of the 47 seats Republicans hold where Obama won last time, the Democrats will win back 18. That gives the Democrats a majority margin of two seats.

What's more for Democrats, earlier fears that Republicans would be able to add up to 20 new House seats through redistricting are fading. "The bottom line is at the end of the day it is going to be a wash," says Israel. [Read: Obama's secret weapon for 2012: the economy.]

Still, however, he's being very cautious on the issue, even telling potential Democratic candidates not to announce their intentions until after the new lines are drawn. Otherwise, he warns, Republicans in states where they are in charge of drawing up a new election map will "redistrict you out of the state." Once the lines are drawn, he advises, "turn the key and ignite." And he's already warning that states where the GOP picks up a substantial number of favorable districts, as expected in Texas, will result in law suits.

Two blocks from the DCCC headquarters, the National Republican Congressional Committee shrugs off Israel's claims. "The hubris of House Democrats is expanding as rapidly as the debt they racked up to countries like China over the last three years. It's a shame that Steve Israel's crystal ball can foresee election results more than a year away but can't do anything to convince his party to get serious about the looming debt crisis facing future generations," says NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay.

  • Check out a slide show of the 2012 GOP primaries: Who's in and who's out.
  • See editorial cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.
  • Read: Obama's secret weapon for 2012: the economy.