SAN DIEGO — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi predicted Friday that five 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 at a news conference on the opening day of the California Democratic Convention.
Pelosi singled out three races in newly drawn districts in California. Democrats are running Ami Berra in a rematch to unseat Sacramento area Rep. Dan Lungren, astronaut Jose Hernandez in a Central Valley district, and Mark Takano in the Riverside area.
"We are very, very proud of them. We believe that they will be joining the ranks of the Democratic majority come November," Pelosi said. "We expect to do even more than that (in California) but at least in those three cases in the drive for 25 to take back the House."
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 told reporters. "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. "