- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 18, 2010

After a week of party infighting between lawmakers and the White House, Democrats did their best Sunday to project an image of unity heading into the mid-term elections this fall, predicting only minimal losses.

“We believe that we are going to have a very strong showing at the polls come November,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s a tough climate, but we’re tough campaigners.”

Mr. Clyburn and his colleagues downplayed the recent declaration by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs that there are enough races in play that Republicans could take back the House. That remark, made one week ago, sparked a frenzy among rank-and-file Democrats who accused the administration of distancing itself from House lawmakers after they have taken a series of politically risky votes on President Obama’s behalf.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer conceded “there’s always tension” between the White House and its allies in Congress, but he insisted that a subsequent meeting between House leaders and Mr. Obama helped smooth things over.

“The meeting that we had was a very positive one. And the president has been working hard. Joe Biden’s been working hard on behalf of our candidates. And we think we’re going to do well,” the Maryland Democrat said.

Indeed, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the party is going to be in “great shape.”

“I think we’re going to shock the heck out of everybody,” Mr. Biden said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “To paraphrase Mark Twain, I think the reports of our demise are premature.”

But even as economists agree the economy is showing signs of improvement, including six consecutive months of job growth, Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies are facing a considerable challenge.

With unemployment still hovering near 10 percent and deficits soaring - not to mention the prevailing anti-incumbent mood sweeping the nation - political analysts predict somewhere around 60 House seats are up for grabs this November. Republicans would need a net gain of 39 to reclaim the majority.

“Whether it’s tea parties or town-hall meetings, all across this country the American people are tired of borrowing and spending and bailouts and takeovers,” House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana said on “Fox News Sunday.”

But just as Republicans are painting Democrats as runaway spenders who have ballooned the size of government, the party in power maintains that the GOP’s prescription, if elected, is for more of the same policies that caused the recession.

“Our Republican colleagues who had their hands on the wheel and drove the car off the cliff into the Grand Canyon and the huge crater, don’t want to take responsibility,” said New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, head of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Democrats are also doing their best to use Republican opposition to Mr. Obama’s marquee accomplishments - the $862 stimulus package, the health care overhaul and financial regulatory reform - to revive the “party of no” label.

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said voters won’t penalize them for voting “no” on objectionable legislation.

“What we are proud to say no to, and I think what the public wants us to say no to, are things like the government running banks, insurance companies, car companies, nationalizing the student loan business, taking over our health care,” the Kentucky lawmaker said on CNN.