Karl Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff for the George W. Bush administration, said he expects GOP gains in the House after November to be smaller than the average for a midterm election. 

Rove said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Wednesday that the average midterm swing since 1934 has been 28 House seats.

“Republicans are likely to gain closer to 20 than 25,” he wrote. “But that’s partly because the GOP got a head start in 2020 by picking up 14 House seats.”

Democrats are seeking to avoid a historical trend that usually sees a new president’s party lose seats in Congress during the midterms, while Republicans are trying to retake the majority in both chambers.

Election watchers think the GOP has a good chance of retaking the House, while the Senate is more of a toss-up. 

Rove said candidates have reached the point in the election, less than six weeks from Election Day, where they are locked into the strategy they have chosen and can no longer make major changes. 

“All that’s left is for candidates to execute their plans, hoping they’ll bring victory,” he wrote.

He said each party’s blueprint is a mirror image of each other, with each party wanting to focus on certain issues and ignore others. He said Republicans want to focus on the economy, crime and the situation at the southern border while Democrats concentrate on abortion access and “threats to democracy.” 

Rove pointed to polls showing each party with significant advantages on which Americans trust more to handle their chosen issues. But he said abortion and climate change are less important for voters than economic and crime concerns, and a majority of independents agree with Republicans on the issues they are focusing on. 

Rove said the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade energized some voters and is likely to affect some races but only “on the margin” and if a candidate is “extreme” on the issue. 

He said the generic congressional ballot shows a close race but called it misleading. He said Democrats need more of an advantage in this to be in a position to keep the House because their voters are more closely grouped together geographically, and Republicans lead the generic ballot in competitive districts. 

Rove said Democrats are in modestly better standing than they were six months ago, but the GOP is “highly likely” to win most of the competitive races and the House. 

“And there will be surprises—good and bad—for each side,” he said. “Candidate quality matters and both parties nominated some knuckleheads.”