It won't be that easy. But there is about a 30% chance the Republican Party, which lost about 70 House seats in the last two elections, could regain control of the House of Representatives.
That's what political analyst and Democratic strategist Charlie Cook told about 800 attendees at the third annual Inside ETFs Conference, which is being sponsored by Financial Advisor magazine and ETFR.
"Right now about 20 to 30 Democratic seats are at risk," but throw in another eight to ten retirements and the House could change leadership, Cook said. "Democrats are lethargic and Republicans are chewing nails," he said, noting that partisan intensity between the parties has turned 180 degrees since 2006, when Democrats retook Congress.
Cook also predicted that the GOP could regain control of the Senate in either 2012 or 2014. That's because in those two cycles following the 2010 cycle, Democrats will have 43 incumbents up for re-election versus only 22 for the Republicans. A GOP takeover of the Senate this year is unlikely.
Why can't the Republicans flip the Senate this year? The stars are not aligned. One example: New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat appointed to replace Hillary Clinton, is very vulnerable, but the Republican party has yet to find a candidate with substance, much less one who could topple her.
Still, he said the Republican brand was seriously damaged. Republicans dislike President Obama and "despise [House Speaker] Pelosi and [Senate Majority Leader] Reid and they hate everything Congress is doing." But they also have "total contempt for their own party's establishment. They need to acknowledge a need for change on their own." However, that's more "of a 2012 problem than a 2010 problem."
At the heart of Republicans' problem with their leaders is the knowledge that the budget was balanced in 2001 and the national debt doubled under former President Bush's eight years in the White House. The GOP controlled Congress for six of those years.
Public disillusionment with Washington across the political spectrum runs so deep that if the economy doesn't turn around in the next few years, Cook's advice for both recently elected Democrats and Republicans likely to win new seats in the fall was essentially, don't unpack your suitcases.
Interviewed before he spoke, Cook doubted either party could achieve a permanent majority. "When either side talks about it, hit the mute button," he quipped.
Both parties have major vulnerabilities. For the Democrats, it's the economy as well as the exposure many elected officials will face when they come up for re-election in traditionally Republican districts. "If we add 150,000 net new jobs for the next 48 months, the unemployment rate would only fall to 9%," Cook said.
For the Republicans, their problems with Hispanic voters spells trouble as the nation's demographics change. "There aren't enough white guys," he said. "The majority of people [not the majority of voters] in Texas are non-white," Cook said. Take Texas out of the safe Republican column, and they have problems.
Internal divisions in the GOP also could cost them. Nine months ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist looked like a sure thing for the Senate but "now he looks like a political hemophiliac" running against former State Assembly Speaker Mario Rubio.
Despite all the problems the Democrats face in 2012, Cook didn't think President Obama was necessarily in peril. Young voters who turned out for him in huge numbers are unlikely to vote in the same numbers in 2010, but Cook suspects they'll be back in 2012.
Independents hold the key. "They like Obama personally, they think he's smart but they are looking at his agenda with increasing skepticism. They thought he was more centrist," Cook continued. "They are beginning to think this isn't the cruise they signed up for."