Washington (CNN)-– Less than 50 gets you 40. That's a rule of electoral math according to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, who is carefully tracking President Obama's approval rating 10 months before the midterm elections.
McCarthy believes that if Obama's approval rating dips below 50, then the GOP has a solid shot of picking up 40 Democratic-held seats – enough to wrest the House majority out of the party's hands. That majority would give Republicans a greater voice in shaping legislation, and the power to try and rework the health care bill as they see fit.
Currently, Democrats hold 256 seats in the House, while Republicans claim 178. There is one vacancy.
McCarthy is not the only Republican talking takeover. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, is also bullish on the GOP's prospects of a return to power – a notion that seemed remote this time last year.
But now, Cantor and McCarthy see a chance to re-take the Hill, counting on a nation fed up with one-party rule in Washington. The two congressmen laid out a hopeful scenario Tuesday evening, describing the GOP's path to victory to a small group of reporters. Cantor acknowledged it would be an uphill climb, but not an impossible one: "We believe we can take back this majority."
Still, the two Republican leaders acknowledged the stars must align for the GOP. Overwhelming voter angst with Washington must continue. The GOP will have to argue effectively against Obama's agenda while promoting their own policy solutions. And Republicans need to raise a flood of money to try and compete with Obama's fundraising prowess.
Expect Republicans to talk about cap-and-trade, the stimulus bill and, of course, health care in the coming months. Cantor said House Republicans will create a "21st Century Agenda for the Republican Party" somewhat similar to the "Contract with America" to help promote their agenda.
McCarthy, who is recruiting GOP candidates, said that they will have about 100 solid challengers for the 2010 election cycle, emphasizing that a quarter of them will be minority.
Still, for all the talk of seizing the speaker's gavel, the GOP has some internal housekeeping it must tend to. While Cantor sought to downplay any rifts, there is real anger from congressional Republicans with how Michael Steele is running the Republican National Committee. Some conservative activists are frustrated with the national leadership, and are expressing it publicly.
And there's another bit of campaign math that may stand between Republicans and their goal of a new majority: Congressional Democrats have a dismal 36 percent approval rating, according to a December Pew Research Center poll – but the GOP's, at 29 percent, is even worse.
Follow Mark Preston on Twitter @prestoncnn