These may be dark days for the Republican Party, but a top GOP congressional leader predicted today that Republicans would trounce Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections and could take back control of the House of Representatives.
"I really believe we've got a shot at taking back this House because you see what's gone on here with the unfettered ability of this administration and Nancy Pelosi to run this Congress," Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the No. 2 Republican in the House, told ABC News in an exclusive interview. "The American people see that this agenda is way far out of the mainstream. They want a check and a balance on this power. And I think at the end of the day that's what rules come November 2010."
Democrats currently have a 257-178 majority, meaning Republicans would need a net gain of 40 seats win control of the House. That would be a historic landslide similar to the 54-seat gain in 1994 that gave Republicans control of the House.
Despite Cantor's optimism, Republicans are in a deep hole. There's a popular Democrat in the White House, and according to the latest ABC News poll, only 21 percent of voters identify themselves as Republicans -- a 26-year low. In the same poll, Republicans in Congress had an approval rating of 30 percent, compared with 45 percent for congressional Democrats.
But Cantor says there is a growing public backlash against Democrats because of massive deficit spending and the administration's approach to national security, especially the decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
"I do believe they are setting up an environment for us to make a very convincing case that this country needs a check and balance on this unbridled power," Cantor said.
In poll after poll, President Obama's approval rating has been greater than 60 percent, twice as high as Republicans in Congress, but Cantor insists the president and his party are vulnerable on the issues.
"Look, he's a likable guy. He's an attractive leader," Cantor said. "But his policies are now tanking. The economy is our issue again. National security is our issue again."
Cantor Says Health Care Will Give GOP Advantage
Even on health care, an issue that has historically favored Democrats, Cantor predicts Republicans will have the advantage in next year's midterm elections. Democrats may have the votes now to push through their version of health care reform, but he says they will face a backlash with "lasting ramifications that will impact the ballot box in November 2010."
"They can jam it through," Cantor said of the Democratic health care plan, "but there will be a huge political cost for this kind of plan to pass in the House."
Democrats scoff at the idea that Republicans could win back the House next year.
"Winning the House will certainly be an enormous challenge for the 'party of no,' given that one-third of Republicans say they have an unfavorable opinion of their own party," said Brendan Daly, spokesperson for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., referring to a recent Gallup poll.