Speaker of the House John Boehner said there is a significant possibility Republicans could lose control of the House in 2012, a surprisingly stark assessment of the party's position two years after it swept into power.
In an interview on Fox News, Boehner said he anticipated his party retaining the majority but acknowledged that we've got a real challenge and we've got work to do.
I would say that there is a two-in-three chance that we win control of the House again but there's a 1-in-3 chance that we could lose, and I'm being myself, frank, Boehner said.
Still, the Republicans hold a substantial 242-190 advantage over Democrats in the House.
An anti-incumbent fervor, powered by stubborn unemployment and the Tea Party's strident opposition to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, helped Republican candidates wrest 63 seats from Democratic incumbents and win control of the House.
Holding onto those gains, however, could prove difficult. Boehner noted 89 freshmen would be running for re-election for the first time and said the most vulnerable Republicans were those in states that won't be heavily contested in the presidential election and won't see the attendant surge in attention.
We have 32 districts that are in states where there is no presidential campaign going to be run, no big Senate race, and we call these orphan districts, Boehner said. You take 18 of them, California, Illinois and New York, where you know we're not likely to do well at the top of the ticket, and those districts are frankly pretty vulnerable.
The freshman Republicans' cost-cutting zeal may also lead to reprisals at the voting booth. Polls showed that last summer's vitriolic battle over raising the country's debt limit, in which Tea Party-affiliated members helped to undercut potential deals as the country teetered on the brink of default, caused the American public's estimation of Congress to plummet.