Republican Party officials said on Thursday historical trends favor them in November 2 congressional elections and that more races are competitive than they expected in a year when voters are focused on economic worries.
Briefing reporters at the Republican National Committee's summer meeting, party officials said President Barack Obama's job approval rating under 50 percent was a leading indicator of how well the Republicans could do in the race to control the 435-seat U.S. House of Representatives.
Republicans need to pick up 39 seats in the House to take control from the Democrats. In the Senate, Democrats have a 59-41 advantage and most experts doubt Republicans could win the Senate.
"For presidents whose approval rating is under 50 percent on a general election day, those presidents have lost on average 41 (House) seats since 1962," said the party's political director, Gentry Collins.
Obama, said Collins, is "very much in that danger zone from a historical point of view."
All this is not news to the Democrats, who are trying to energize Democratic voters by laying the blame for the worst recession since the Great Depression on the Republicans under President George W. Bush.
"What they're really betting on is amnesia," Obama said of Republicans at a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago on Thursday. "They're betting that you just forgot about the eight years that they were in charge of Washington."
The Republican Party is battling to raise enough money to help candidates in races across the country and officials here approved a $10 million line of credit in case extra money is needed.
Under controversial party chairman Michael Steele, the party has recently had some problems raising money but committee members have rallied around Steele with 90 days to go until the election.
Collins would not predict how many House seats Republicans might win but said there are more competitive races this year than he has seen in his political career.
"Candidly that presents quite a challenge for us. We'll be trying to spread our resources out over a far larger playing field than we've had in the past, but that's a good problem to have," he said.
On November 2, Americans will elect all 435 members of the House and fill 37 seats in the 100-member Senate.
Republican Party strategy director Bill Steiner said public dissatisfaction with job creation, rising debt and the weak U.S. economy are the key issues in the elections.
Indeed, Republicans feel so good about their chances that some say there is a risk of peaking too early or getting overconfident with the election still 90 days away.
"We've got wind in our sails, let's hope we don't blow it," said Rich Williamson, a party official from Obama's home state of Illinois.
Party officials spent part of their official business on Thursday debating possible changes to their 2012 presidential primary schedule that would keep Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada as their first voting states and spread other states throughout subsequent weeks and months.
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