If the harsh division in congress reflects attitudes across the country, as House majority leader and California congressman Kevin McCarthy asserted at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills yesterday, there is a belief among many political observers that the midterm elections will mirror a political environment not friendly to McCarthy’s team. While McCarthy admitted that history is not on the side of Republicans in the midterms, he remains optimistic that when voters study the landscape under Republican rule his party will do well come November.

“I know what the odds say,” McCarthy acknowledged in an interview at the conference conducted by pollster Frank Luntz. McCarthy pointed out that since World War II only two midterm elections boosted the party that held the White House. One was in 2002 after the extraordinary events of 9/11; the other time was during Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1998 when he was able to boast of economic growth and use his “triangulation” strategy of presenting policy that fell between the left and right ideologies.

McCarthy thinks good economic news will lift the Republicans despite predictions by some that Democrats will take the House. McCarthy talked about growth possibly hitting 3%, tax cuts that saw five million Americans getting bonuses, 90% of Americans getting raises by having less money withheld from their paychecks; two-million new jobs and a 44-year low in unemployment, with record unemployment in both the African American and Hispanic communities.

To buttress his optimism, McCarthy cited generic polling about which party voters would choose to control congress. McCarthy said the Democratic advantage stood at 12% in January but dropped to 5.5% recently. If that figure holds or continues to fall, McCarthy believes the House would stay in Republican hands.

In acknowledging anger about politics abroad in the land, the majority leader suggested those who refused to accept the result of the presidential election prompted some of the anger. But, he also offered that social media might share the blame. Rarely now does congress look for compromise to create a win-win situation, he said. It has become more of a win and destroy mind-set that keeps the fires of anger burning.

While saying that the founding fathers set up an adversarial system so that policy proposals could be stopped, compromise can make policy happen. McCarthy talked about the possibility of a Dodd-Frank reform bill passing congress soon. But at the same time he also warned that congress members often want to avoid risk. In discussing any possible changes to the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, McCarthy said a risk factor meter would record the greatest ability for a member of congress to take a risk the day after he or she is elected. As the calendar moves closer to the next election the risk factor decreases. He was hopeful a bill could be passed soon…but the country is closing in on those midterm elections.