Exclusive: Pelosi Says Democrats Have 'Very Good Chance' to Win Back the House in 2012

Former speaker says Dems have 'very good chance' to retake House.

June 2, 2011 -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC News in an exclusive interview that Democrats "have a very good chance of winning the House" majority in the 2012 elections, pointing to Medicare as the key issue that could propel her party back into control of the lower chamber of Congress.

"We just take it, as I say to the members, one day, one good day, one good week, one good month, one good quarter at a time," said Pelosi, D-Calif., in an interview for ABC News' Subway Series with Jonathan Karl.

Pelosi discussed a wide array of subjects, ranging from military withdrawal in Afghanistan and Libya to the controversy surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter account and the timing of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' return to Capitol Hill.

Asked directly whether she thinks she will be elected speaker again, Pelosi pointed to 63 congressional districts that President Obama carried in 2008 that are now held by Republicans. House Democrats need to win just 24 of those seats to regain control of the House.

"It takes a strong message ... which enables us to have the mobilization at grass-roots level," Pelosi said. "I was talking about the M's: message, mobilization, the money to get the message out, and management -- management of the campaign by the candidates so that it can be effective.

"What we're about is policy," she added. "What we want is to change the view that the Republicans have that it is OK to abolish Medicare [and] to make seniors pay more for less while we give tax breaks to big oil. That's not a formula that I think works for the middle class."

Pelosi said that cuts to seniors' benefits are "absolutely" off the table in the ongoing deficit reduction negotiations, but suggested that Congress could improve Medicare by working to eliminate fraud and also by giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services unilateral authority to negotiate for lower prices for the endangered entitlement program.

"When you talk about Medicare, the first thing I would do if I ruled the world would be to allow the secretary of HHS to negotiate for lower prices. That would save tens of billions of dollars," Pelosi said. "The last place we need to go -- we don't ever have to go there -- is to what the Republicans are doing: Eliminate Medicare [and] make seniors pay more for less as you give tax breaks to big oil and say that's how we have to reduce the deficit. We don't subscribe to that."

Pelosi said the election in 2012 "is not about Paul Ryan [the architect of the Republicans' budget and Medicare proposals]. It is about the Republicans in Congress."

"I wish we could change minds of Republicans on abolishing Medicare," she said. "The public is going to have to help us do that either before the election or at the time of the election.

"If the Republicans are convinced of that over the next 18 months, that they will change their mind on it, then that is less of an issue in the campaign," she said. "We'd rather solve the problem than have the issue. But we are determined to fight for the issue."

She said that while Republicans are focusing their message on reducing the deficit, voters should be mindful of the causes that led to the looming debt crisis.

"To reduce the deficit, you have to promote growth through jobs, you have to make cuts where you can, and make them wisely, and you have to put revenue on the table. That's how you are going to reduce the deficit," Pelosi said. "People don't want to hear about how we got here, but we got here because of the policies of President Bush and we don't want to repeat them. And so we want to have something different. We want to have investment in jobs. We want to have revenue on the table so that we can reduce the deficit, and we have to make cuts."

Pelosi, who served as the country's first female House speaker during the 110th and 111th sessions of Congress, said that when President Obama begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan this summer, he must make a sizeable withdrawal that changes the focus of the mission from one of military support to civilian support.

"We will see what the president proposes, but it will have to be something more substantial than we have heard so far, which is a few thousand troops," Pelosi said. "The transition from military to civilian is going to be in the interest of our security, that it reduces the number of military who have to be there at risk, [and] it reduces the amount of money by like tenfold. If you spent $10 billion on the civilian effort you probably will get more security than $120 billion dollars a year, which is what we are spending on the military effort [now]. It doesn't mean you completely eliminate the military effort."

Pelosi said that an upcoming vote on a resolution to withdraw from NATO operations within 15 days of passage does not have her support, although she admitted she respects the intentions of the author of the measure, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, to protect the Constitutional powers of Congress.

"I don't think that this resolution is the way for us to go," she said. "If it is a statement about Congress asserting its authority then let's do it another way. But the very idea that within 15 days we would abandon a NATO commitment I just don't think is right.

"Besides," she added, "we don't have boots on the ground in Libya. I am very protective of Congress' prerogatives, as you can just imagine, but I don't think that that is the way to go and I am not sure that the votes are there for that."

Pelosi also weighed in on the buzz surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who claims a lewd photo posted to his Twitter account was the result of a "prank" by an unknown hacker.

"I got off the plane [Tuesday] and everyone was talking about this and I was like, 'I don't even know what you are talking about,' because when you come from the West Coast to the East Coast you have a day where you just don't even know what is going on until you get off the plane. So I am a late comer to the issue. But I am sure I have confidence in Anthony Weiner that if an investigation is in order, that will take place."

As for the timing of the return to Congress of her close friend, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Pelosi said the Arizona Democrat is recovering "by leaps and bounds" from a gunshot wound to the head last January, but Pelosi is unsure how soon Giffords could resume her work at the Capitol. Still, Pelosi predicted Giffords "definitely" would return.

"I can't make a prediction in terms of when that will be, but I am pleased with what her surgeon and those doing her therapy have said about her recovery," Pelosi said. "I talk to her. I spent a lot of time with her doctors in the facility where she was at first and now where she is, and in both places they tell me they expect a complete recovery.

"She is young, she is fit, she is determined, she does her therapy. She now has had this most recent procedure, which will enable her to go home soon," Pelosi added. "With the strength that she has, I know we'll see her back."