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‘Comeback’ for GOP seen in House races

Pelosi denies Democrats are upset with president

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The top Senate Republican said Thursday the GOP is "on a comeback" politically as Democrats scrambled to bury the hatchet after several days of intraparty squabbling over their chances to hold the House in November's elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, denied any friction with the White House, dismissing reports that she and her House colleagues are angry at the president for ignoring their interests.

"There is absolutely no reason to think that the White House has been anything but cooperative with us in terms of our political efforts to retain control of the Congress," Mrs. Pelosi told reporters.

The speaker's comments contradict news reports this week that she and other House Democrats privately have accused the president of not doing enough to help vulnerable members during what is expected to be a tough election season for the party.

The speaker said that a Wednesday meeting between House Democratic leaders and the president went well and focused mostly on job creation and reducing the unemployment rate. She added that she has "nothing but praise" for the way President Obama has responded to House Democrats' concerns.

Yet some House Democrats have grumbled that Mr. Obama has been much too eager to campaign for Senate Democrats while largely ignoring party members in the House, many of whom are facing tough re-election battles in November.

And at least a few in the caucus have expressed frustration that the president has pushed them to pass controversial legislation that the Senate later watered down, such as the health care reform and the economic stimulus packages. The scenario, they say, has left them open to attacks on the campaign trail.

The situation intensified Tuesday during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, where, according to news reports, many lawmakers vented frustration regarding what they perceived as unfair treatment by the administration.

Democrats' worries come at a time when Republicans are increasingly confident about their chances. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Thursday that Republicans are making a comeback and "in a good place politically."

"Today, just a year and a half after Democrats took over, confident that Washington bureaucrats had the answers to our problems, virtually every survey you look at shows that Americans have lost faith in the Democrat leadership and in government period," Mr. McConnell said in a speech to the Young Republican Leadership Conference.

Republicans hold 178 seats in the House and would need to pick up 40 seats to gain a ruling majority. All of the chamber's 435 seats are up for re-election in November.

With the death last month of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, the Democratic caucus now stands at 58 seats in the 100-member Senate. Thirty-six Senate seats will be on the ballot in November, with the fate of Mr. Byrd's seat undecided.

The RealClearPolitics.com average of polls gives Republicans a 3.2-percentage-point advantage over Democrats in the generic congressional ballot, which asks voters whether they plan to support a Republican or Democrat in House elections this year.

By contrast, Democrats held a double-digit advantage in mid-July in 2006, months ahead of their capture of the House and Senate.

Tensions between House Democrats and the administration increased Sunday, when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the party could lose control of the House after the November elections.

Mrs. Pelosi, who called the comment "unfortunate," predicted that Democrats will retain control of the House.

"We fully intend to win," she said. "The comment can be interpreted many ways, I think it was a Rorschach test, but from our standpoint, we're very pleased with what the White House has been doing and what they will continue to do."

The speaker, while going to great lengths Thursday to portray harmony between her caucus and the White House, took a veiled shot at the Senate for delaying or neglecting action on a growing stack of bills passed by the House but awaiting action in the upper chamber.

"If we had health care sooner, if we had energy sooner, if we had the education bill sooner, they were all three pillars of job creation and that would have resulted in more jobs created by now," she said.

The speaker's office said that since January 2009 the Senate has failed to act on 345 House-passed bills, including many that deal with jobs and small businesses.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Thursday that the reported Democratic tussle reflects a party in "panic" and engaged in a "full-scale civil war."

"With all the trouble that House Democrats are in right now, there was really only a matter of time before the gloves came off. I just didn't know that the targets would be each other," Mr. Boehner said. "I understand that House Democrats are angry because they see the White House throwing them under the bus."

Republicans slowly have been laying out a vision of what they might do if voters give them more power. In the House, Mr. Boehner has said the health care bill and the financial regulation bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, should be repealed.

Mr. McConnell said a key part of Republicans' pitch to voters is that they will bring limits back to what the government promises to do.

"We're not going to tell you that if you vote Republican you're going to wake up in your dream home with a brand new Corvette outside ready to take you to the best job in the world. You know why? Because government can't deliver that promise," Mr. McConnell said.

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