Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to soothe jangled Democratic nerves on Thursday, insisting that House members are satisfied with the White House's political effort and promising that President Barack Obama will devote more time to help the party win in November.
And in a fundraising letter, Pelosi went further than most political analysts after a very public dispute between House Democrats and the administration — and four months before midterm elections.
"Democrats will keep control of the House. Period," read an e-mail under her name sent by the Democrats' campaign arm in the House.
The bold language reflected how definitively party leaders wanted to end the spat over whether the White House was sufficiently helping House Democrats who voted for Obama's agenda.
It started Sunday when White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stated the obvious — that enough House seats were in play to jeopardize the Democrats' majority. It ended roughly in the same place: With all sides agreeing on that one inconvenient truth and expecting the Obama White House to ramp up its campaign activities during the fall.
In the short term, there was talk of wanting Obama to appear personally before the House Democratic Caucus to address any crisis of confidence.
"I would not be surprised if the president comes to the caucus before the summer break," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. "I just think it's imperative for him to come before us and not send an emissary."
The squabble exposed how rattled many Democrats are over their task — defending their votes for Obama's initiatives to stimulate the economy, overhaul health care and regulate Wall Street. All 435 House seats, 36 in the Senate and the Democratic majorities in each chamber are on the line.
Interpretations of Gibbs' candor differed. Some Democrats perceived a White House giving up on control of the House; others figured Gibbs was handing Republicans a rhetorical weapon or trying to energize the Democratic base.
Pelosi lashed out at the remarks during a closed-door meeting with her rank and file on Tuesday. The White House spokesman later clarified that he expects Democrats to retain control while adding that he didn't say anything "politically shocking." The White House also circulated a memo detailing how much campaign help Obama and his administration have provided to Democrats.
And Wednesday night, the speaker and other House leaders meet privately with Obama at the White House to air their concerns. Obama said he understood the criticism and promised full engagement and support through the fall, according to an aide who demanded anonymity to describe a private meeting.
By Thursday morning, discipline had returned. Democrats left a caucus meeting refusing to comment except to say the White House meeting was productive. Pelosi, at her weekly news conference, said Democrats generally were pleased with the administration's political support.
"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," she said.
But she took care to distinguish between her opinion of the president and his spokesman.
"As I said in the meeting but was not reported, whatever comments may have been made had absolutely nothing to do with what the president was doing and what the president was saying himself," Pelosi said.
Will the president campaign more for Democrats, she was asked.
"More than he has?" Pelosi replied. "Certainly.