House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has few doubts about the prospects for House Democrats at the polls in 2012.
"I fully expect us to take back the House next year," said the number two Democrat emphatically.
There's concern that the recent retirements of Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX) could dampen the Democrats' electoral prospects. Plus, sources indicate that a spate of other senior Democrats could be on the way.
"I don't expect to have a large number of retirements," said Hoyer. He noted that fewer House Democrats have retired so far this year compared to a similar point on the calendar in 1995. That's the year Republicans formally seized control of the House from the Democrats after more than 40 years in power.
17 House Democrats have announced they are either retiring or seeking another office Just seven House Republicans are stepping aside.
Hoyer said he thought Frank could have won re-election and noted that Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), another longtime Democrat who is also retiring, could have won had he decided to stay, too.
"While I was saddened, I was not shocked," said Hoyer about Frank's decision. "He just wasn't sure he wanted to make that effort."
Hoyer also dismissed a question that he may also be one to retire. The Maryland Democrat, who is 72, announced he filed for re-election yesterday.
"When I don't like the job, I'll get out," Hoyer said.
But a reporter pointed out that along with Hoyer, the top three House Democrats are in their seventies. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC) are both 71. That's fueled speculation that some of them may cash it in.
"Be careful now," Hoyer said with a grin to the reporter who suggested the age issue. "We're 55 million strong and we'll getcha!"
The National Republican Congressional Committee responded Tuesday afternoon, "It must be painful for Steny Hoyer to keep a straight face while he cheerleads for Nancy Pelosi's campaign to become Speaker again," said NRCC Communications Director Paul Lindsay. "Apparently the decades he has spent in Washington have blinded him from the reality that House Democrats are choosing to abandon ship rather than face another round of punishment from voters in 2012."