Washington (CNN) – As President Obama heads behind closed doors Wednesday evening with House Democratic leaders for a key election-year strategy session, senior party officials said that top lawmakers are privately still fuming about White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' declaration this weekend that Republicans could take control of Congress in November.
The senior officials said that at a private Capitol Hill meeting on Tuesday night, a string of House Democrats - including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - expressed deep frustration that Gibbs had played into Republicans' hands by answering a hypothetical question on NBC's "Meet the Press" about whether Democrats may lose their grip on power.
In a statement that senior White House officials maintain was blindingly obvious and really not newsworthy, Gibbs said on Sunday, "I think there is no doubt there are enough seats in play - that could cause Republicans to gain control."
But senior Democratic officials on Capitol Hill said it's one thing for a pundit to state the obvious about the state of play in the election and quite another for a top White House official to offer an assessment that may depress the party's base just as officials hope to start revving liberals up.
"Members were hot - hot, hot, hot," one senior Democratic official told CNN about the private meeting Tuesday where House Democrats directed their anger at Dan Turton, a White House aide who attended the session.
A senior administration official acknowledged to CNN there was heavy tension at Tuesday's Congressional meeting, but stressed that many lawmakers also said that after expressing their frustration they now want to turn the page and do not plan to rail against the president himself at Wednesday night's meeting at the White House with Pelosi and other leaders like Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, South Carolina.
That assessment was backed up by a senior Democratic aide on Capitol Hill, who told CNN: "The Speaker said last night at the meeting that members have vented but we can't let it be a distraction. We need to move on and focus on the tasks at hand."
Gibbs on Wednesday at his briefing sought to ease some of the tension by saying Pelosi's efforts have been "monumental" on behalf of the president's agenda. He also reiterated that his original comments on Sunday were meant to rally the party into coming together on showing voters there will be a sharp contrast between the Republican and Democratic agendas in November.
"On that choice we will do very well," said Gibbs, adding that he believes Democrats will keep control of both the House and Senate.
Nevertheless, Gibbs' comments sent alarm bells through the upper echelons of the Democratic party, especially because the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday has a long-planned breakfast meeting with lobbyists who are key party fundraisers. The committee that is in charge of helping to elect House Democrats had been hoping to project momentum in advance of Friday's deadline to public reveal fundraising numbers for the first six months of this year.
The fear now among some top Democrats, in the words of one top party official, is that the Gibbs comments will "give the Republicans a big fundraising boost" as perception builds that Democrats are in even deeper trouble than already expected.
Gibbs himself has insisted all week that he was really just stating the obvious about the challenge Democrats are facing. "I think I did what is maybe uncommon in this town and yesterday I opened my mouth and stated the obvious," Gibbs said at Monday's daily press briefing with reporters. "I do not believe that you all are now scurrying around to cover this election markedly different based on my having said that there are a number of seats that are in play."
Gibbs has also stressed all week that he's merely trying to focus everyone on the fact that both parties will be offering sharply different visions of how to deal with key issues like the economy.
"You're going to have a choice between the leadership that we have now and the leadership that believes that BP should be apologized to first and foremost, and that the type of calamity wrought by the financial meltdown in the end of 2008 is analogous to the size of an ant," Gibbs said Monday. "Those are choices that the American people are going to get a chance to hear and make in November."
UPDATE: From CNN's Brianna Keilar and Deirdre Walsh
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman, took a jab at Gibbs Wednesday, telling reporters, "People need to be aware of how their comments will be interpreted in a political environment."
Later, in an interview with CNN, Van Hollen stressed the need to move past the comments and tried to steer the focus toward criticism of Republicans.
"There is no upside to this and we need to get beyond this and focus less on what the president's spokesman said on a news show and focus on what the Republicans say they will do if they get control of the House," Van Hollen said. He said Republicans are asking voters "to send back the same guys who got the economy in the ditch to begin with."
On Wednesday evening's White House meeting – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats need to get on the same page. "I think our message to the president is we need to be speaking obviously on message from the White House, and from the House, and I think we need to be focused on what we've done to create jobs and move the country forward."
Hoyer attempted to downplay the back and forth in wake of Robert Gibbs comments, "as I said yesterday I think we're going to win control of the House – we're going to maintain control of the House so I think any conclusion other than that is incorrect."
"I think there's some need for coordination and meeting is important to do that and that's what we're going to do."
House Republican Leader John Boehner, seized on the internal squabble among Democrats, saying the Democratic Caucus is "in chaos."
But trying to tamp down expectations about Republicans taking control, Boehner noted "I think we've got a steep hill to climb to get to the majority. We've got a lot of work to do, but it is possible."
Dina Titus, a first term Democrat from Nevada and a top target of Republicans, told CNN she didn't think the spat within her party would affect her and other vulnerable Democrats negatively.
"I'm hoping that it's going to get Democrats all enthused and they turn out even more because these are tough races," Titus said.
But she also sought to distance herself from the White House and top Democrats, saying "We're just running our own race. I'm not Obama. I'm not Reid. I'm Dina Titus and that's what we're focusing on."
See what you get, Mr. Gibbs, for telling the truth?
The dems will lose in the fall, no doubt about it.
Democrats will get angry about anything INCLUDING the TRUTH!! The Democrats have sent this economy spiraling into a second recession and wonder why the people now want to kick their butts out? Obama has done NOTHING to improve this economy and, in fact, has done everything possible to KILL this economy (Health Care, Finance Reform, threat of "Cap and Tax", telling businesses they will pay significantly MORE in taxes starting next year, etc.). Now Gibbs inadvertently tells the truth (I know, I know Democrats RARELY tell the truth) and now the Democrats are mad?
Here is the thing.....Obama should stop worrying about bi-partisan support. He will never get republican support. He should go ahead with his agenda and let these repubs and tea party bark on the side. He is wasting his time reaching out to these morons.
They need to get over it. If they were doing the job they were elected to do and not play politics, they would not be in a situation for slips like that form Mr Gibb.
Indignation seems to be the only thing Republicans and Democrats agree on and have in common.
If the Democrats of Washington are so sensitive that Gibb's remark got them wrapped around their shorts – maybe there's a message in there.
Like: "Get off your sacred arses and start getting things done! " You guys blew a 2/3 majority cow towing to Republican goons, and you still don't get it!
Start doing what Marine MP's do: "Kick some Republican goon A–, and take some names!"
Gibbs was just being honest. It could happen. It should not happen, it will be a disaster if it happens, but it could happen. The right would never have made a mistake of speaking honeslty about this election or they would not even run any candidates until they come up with new policies and ideas beyond the nightmares thier current agenda produced.
Fume all you want........you're outta here. America can no longer stand the destruction being caused by these out of control spending Democrats. And yes, we would rather have it back to the Bush era than continue on this path. Prior to the Democratic takeover in 2007, things were pretty good and business was booming, those were the best years we have had. Democrats take over and everything goes up....gas, taxes, fees etc and now look at us.
The Democrats have to ask themselves "What are we doing wrong?" They figured it out-only for a moment when Scott Brown. That got their attention and they turned momentarily from healthcare to the economy. Poll after poll stated that the president should focus on the economy, yet again, here he is making immigration reform the top of his agenda, and the Democrats are begging the Obama to focus on the economy. Bill Clinton said it best: "It's the economy, stupid."
The GOP is certainly poised to gain seats. Republicans have worked to prohibit any success or achievement in our country since the last election. This effort will pay-off for them, since Americans are simply too stupid to realize the GOP was the party who all but destroyed the country during their reign of greed, corruption, and poor leadership. The Republican mantra is all about President Obama assuming responsibility for all of the country's problems – demanding that Democrats stop blaming Bush. Is anybody really thick enough to believe the stinking pile of dung Bush left behind could be cleaned up in 18 months? Did you ever go to school?
What ? Is pelosi unhappy because Gibbs won't play
along with the lie machine ?
gibbs finally tells the truth and the demonuts cannot accept the truth especially botox pelosi. You liberals can say goodbye to your majority come November and botox pelosi will have to give up her free airline taxi(free to her not to us taxpayers)about every week-end to California.
This just goes to show what racists the democrats are.
Now they are giving our black President's press sec.
a hard time. Let's proclamate the democratic party to be racist.
Let's take a look at what 5 years of Dem congressional leadership has done for us...
Yea... the Dems are in trouble... Nov, 2012 and then some
America is waking up... we are broke... and that's change you can't belive in
How dare he tell the truth! Shame on him? :)
Seriously...with all the problems we are facing in this country currently elected Democrats are "furious" over Gibbs remarks. Really? Like now that he said it there's no turning back. Here's a noval idea. How about focusing on trying to fix the actual problems, like unemployment, instead of just trying to save your own jobs. Kill two birds with one stone. What a waste. No wonder our country is so close to complete collapse.
Its always a possibility that a party will lose or gain seats. It's not a traitorous comment, it's just fact. If anything, Gibbs' comment was meant to energize the party and encourage those too jaded or lazy to vote, to prove him wrong.
America's got unemployment at 10%, a million gallons of oil a day spilling off Louisianna's shore, the Taliban selling electricity from a turbine that we paid $100 million to install and the Congressional Democrats finally get upset about something. Campaign doners could become worried because the White House Press Secretary said Democrats may lose control in November elections.
I wondered what it would take to get Nancy Pelosi angry.
Robert Gibbs committed the biggest crime in politics: he told the truth. What I think Gibbs was trying to do was to let democrats know that they might be in for a big shock come November. Or maybe he is just reiterating what we already know: that he’ll be looking for a job in two years.
I thought that he did a good interview. I am a Dallas Small business owner and a convert Democrat and a reality check is exactly what the base needs to realize that the Nuts and Wackos, KKK, Tea, Minutemen, Whatever actually have a majority when they are motivated and we are sleeping instead of voting. Let's all hope that the youth and the intelligencia of the USA do not allow the "Capitalist Conservative Christians" to overthrow our government again.
Enough people have died. Enough history has been wasted.
good. Maybe this will wake up Democrats and get them out to vote in November!
Only the teabaggers are making enough noise about the elections, I don't consider the rethugs anybody.
Stenny Hoyer is a hillbilly. He doesn't see that unless "they the Dems" do something soon the Repbuli-pukes will gain some seats.
there is nothing wrong with being honest on a subject,the plan as i see it is,whitch ever one of those positions weather it be mr.gibbs' or miss pelosis',we will probably see a more unified and official stand coming out if this meet.i don't think there is a rift,its just a two pronged approach to find the most benificial position.
He was stating his opinion. I respect that.
I have yet to meet one person on this planet that can predict the future.
If the Democratic congress (or Congress as a whole) was actually productive they wouldn't have to worry about losing seats or one of their own even claiming that there are seats to lose.