Washington (CNN) – Defying virtually all political analysis, the No. 2 House Democrat said his party has "a good shot" at winning enough seats in November to regain control of the House of Representatives.
Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer made a similar prediction in February, but no veteran political observers believe the House Democrats are in a position to pick up the 17 seats they would need to win back the chamber. In fact most national observers believe Republicans will keep or slightly expand the 234 GOP seat majority they hold now in the House.
Hoyer argued in a session with reporters in his office in the Capitol on Wednesday that the "penchant for Republicans to self-destruct" combined with voters’ wariness of gridlock in Congress will propel people across the country to vote for a change in leadership in the House.
President Obama's low approval ratings – about 42% in a recent CNN poll have a favorable opinion of him – are expected to hurt Democrats, and Hoyer acknowledged that they are "a factor."
But Hoyer stood by his assessment, telling reporters, "Republicans are going to be running as the representatives of a party that shut down government, that put the country almost at the throws of default on the debt, that have done 52 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and not much else. So I think Republicans have quite a weight to carry."
It’s common for top party leaders, who have to raise millions of dollars for their party’s candidates, to inflate their chances, but even the head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, repeatedly declines to predict House Democrats can put the House in play this fall.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is one Democrat who shares Hoyer's optimism. She recently told the Washington Post she is aiming for Democrats to win 25 seats in November. While Hoyer said Pelosi had a "great goal" he declined to put a number on exactly how many seats Democrats could pick up.
The Maryland Democrat cited Arkansas as a state where Democrats have an opportunity to make gains. Currently there are no Democrats in the Arkansas delegation, but Hoyer said he believed three districts could turn blue, and the national attention by the party on the competitive Senate and governor's races will help Democratic House candidates.
Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, mocked Hoyer's latest political assessment.
“Steny Hoyer is living in Nancy Pelosi’s fantasy, buy their fairytale is going to have a very unhappy ending in November,” she said.