SAN DIEGO — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi predicted Friday that California and four other large states will bring Democrats within striking distance of gaining control of the chamber this year.
Pelosi said she expected California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas to leave the party only about a half-dozen seats short. She declined to predict how many seats she anticipated picking up, saying only that she would happy with the 25 needed to take control from Republicans.
President Barack Obama won’t campaign in four of the five target states because they are not presidential battlegrounds, Pelosi said. Florida is the exception.
“We’re within range just naming those five states — just a handful, a half-dozen more to go — so we feel very good about the numbers,” Pelosi said on the opening day of the California Democratic Convention.
Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, dismissed the Democratic leader’s remarks.
“The more Nancy Pelosi talks, the less likely Democrats are to win any seats. She has an agenda that the American people have already rejected coast to coast,” he said.
California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said he expected Obama would visit California to raise money but not to seek votes. Democrats hold a commanding edge in voter registration in California, control the state legislature and swept state offices last year.
“You spend your time where you have to spend it to get the votes,” Burton said. “He could spend a lot of time in California and go from 58 percent to 61 and then lose Washington and Oregon, so he’s doing the right thing … It is what is. Historically people come out here and have raised money. They go to California, New York, Texas, sometimes Florida, but they go where the money is. We understand that. “
Democratic officials have voiced confidence that the House is in play. Rep. Steve Israel, who oversees the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says it’s a possibility, but he stops short of predicting that it will happen.
Both parties are looking to California as a state that will play a big role in determining which party retains control of the House. Redistricting has led several incumbents to either retire or to run in districts that contain communities unfamiliar with their name and work.
Most analysts have predicted that Democrats are likely to add to their majority in California, which now stands at 34 Democrats versus 19 Republicans.
California’s new independent redistricting process has given Democrats hope that they will be able to expand their majority status, at least in the state Senate, where they hope to capture an additional two seats. That would be enough for the two-thirds majority that would allow Democrats to pass tax increases without Republican votes.
This year, a new primary system, in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party, will be in widespread use for the first time. That is expected to force candidates of both major parties to spend more money than they typically have in a primary election cycle because they will be forced to appeal to a wider swath of the electorate, not just party die-hards.
Newly drawn political boundaries for state Assembly, Senate and congressional districts also are causing complications for Democrats, who enjoy majorities in both houses of the Legislature and in the states’ congressional delegation. Some have to move districts or challenge members of their own party in the June primary.