WASHINGTON (AP) Facing criticism from House Democrats, President Barack Obama promised their leaders Wednesday night that he’ll actively support their agenda and Democratic lawmakers as they head into tough midterm elections this fall.
According to a congressional leadership aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer were among those in an Oval Office meeting Wednesday night.
The meeting came as congressional Democrats, fearing disaster in the fall elections, have expressed frustration with the Obama team and its efforts to help Democrats.
They also were angered when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said over the weekend that enough seats were in play for Democrats to lose the House.
Obama was told of the concerns of rank-and-file lawmakers, some of whom think the president hasn’t been doing enough to use his bully pulpit on their behalf, considering that they are all up for re-election in November, the aide said.
Obama won’t face voters again until 2012.
Obama said that he understood the criticism and promised full engagement and support on substance and message through the fall, the aide said.
With high unemployment dragging down incumbents, a key focus will be on jobs and how individual congressional districts are helped by Democrats’ policies.
Pelosi told reporters it had been a “very productive meeting” and said that Gibbs’ comment about Democrats possibly losing the House never came up.
Pelosi had lashed out at Gibbs over the remark Tuesday in a closed meeting with rank-and-file members. Earlier Wednesday, Gibbs defended himself, but he hastened to add that he believes Democrats will hang onto the House.
“I don’t think I said anything that was politically shocking,” Gibbs said during his daily briefing with reporters.
Also Wednesday, the White House circulated a memo detailing all the political help Obama and administration officials have given to the party’s candidates.
The White House portrayed the memo as a regular update of its political operation, but the timing suggested otherwise.
The memo describes how Obama and his team are working with candidates ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The White House plans to dispatch Obama across the country at least once a week between now and November 2.
So far, Obama has appeared at 32 political events during his presidency and attended hundreds more in swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.