President Reagan's top political advisers said yesterday they have little hope that Republicans will gain control of the House of Representatives in the 1982 elections.
The forecast by Lyn Nofziger, head of the White House political office, and his chief deputy, Edward Rollins, contrasted dramatically with earlier predictions by GOP leaders that the party could regain control of the House in 1982 for the first time in 30 years.
"It's very tough to add seats in the House in an off election year," Nofziger told newsmen at a breakfast. "Traditionally, history is against us," added Rollins, who is scheduled to replace Nofziger later this month.
They also put a damper on predictions that the GOP would become the nation's dominant party during the 1980s. Democrats "remain the majority party," and will continue to be until Republicans succeed in winning the presidency "three or four times in a row," said Nofziger.
"I think we made gains in 1980," he added. "I hope we keep them."
Nofziger's remarks were at odds with predictions made by GOP national chairman Richard Richards earlier this year. Richards said Republicans were on the "threshold of majority status" and would win control of the House in 1982, aided by defections of some conservative Democrats.
Nofziger, who plans to go into private business at the end of the month, said his office has never made a similar prediction. But events have also altered the political picture in recent months.
Republicans have not fared as well as they hoped in reapportionment battles, he said. Hoping to pick up 12 to 15 seats through redistricting, to date they appear to have gained only three or four. An effort to persuade Democratic congressmen to defect has also stalled. Two Democrats, Reps. Eugene V. Atkinson of Pennsylvania and Bob Stump of Arizona, have changed parties.
Democrats now outnumber Republicans in the House 243 to 191. There is one vacant seat.
Nofziger said the 1982 elections will hinge largely on the state of the economy. Republicans, he said, will fare well "if the economy is in pretty good shape," or if it isn't and "we're able to fasten the blame on the Democrats."
Nofziger said unemployment is a far greater problem for GOP election prospects than the budget deficit, now expected to exceed $100 billion. "I don't think anyone has ever lost an election because of a high federal deficit, but people have lost over high unemployment," he said.