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Roll Call

Pelosi Slams Gibbs for ‘Politically Inept’ House Forecast

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during Tuesday night’s House Democratic Caucus meeting for saying Sunday that Democrats could lose control of the House in November.

Several Democratic sources in the room described a testy scenario that started with Rep. Bill Pascrell (N.J.) criticizing Gibbs for saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that there is “no doubt there’s enough seats in play” to allow for a House GOP takeover in 2012. Things heated up as Pelosi jumped in and blasted Gibbs for making “politically inept” comments, according to one source.

“It was bad,” another source said. “She was like: ‘I don’t appreciate it. I don’t know who this guy is. I’ve never met him before. And he’s saying that we’re going to lose the House.’”

A spokesman for Pelosi declined to comment Tuesday night.

Pelosi reportedly said Gibbs’ comments were particularly damaging because they give ammunition to Republicans trying to make the case that Democrats are going to lose in November. “Someone from the White House says it, and [House Minority Whip Eric] Cantor says it, so now you have both sides saying something,” the source said. “So she was very upset.”

At one point, the Speaker turned to Dan Turton, the White House legislative liaison, and demanded to know whether Gibbs was speaking for the White House or for himself. Turton said he did not think Gibbs’ comments were a coordinated statement, the source said.

Pascrell voiced the opinion of many in the room when he complained that the White House has not given much campaign help to House Democrats and that Gibbs’ remarks were “kind of emblematic of that,” the source said.

However, Pelosi’s bottom line was to discourage Members from stewing over the comments, according to another source. Although she said she sympathized with the Members’ frustrations, the Speaker told the Caucus, “We’ve vented our frustrations, and we need to move past that and move forward.”

A White House staffer in the room said Democrats’ frustrations were heard. “Members of the Caucus made clear their concern with his comments,” the staffer said. “I thought the exchange was honest and fair.”

The dust-up in the Caucus meeting wasn’t the first time Tuesday that House Democrats vented anger about Gibbs. Pelosi “ripped him” in a Democratic leadership meeting, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), vice chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, bashed Gibbs during a DCCC meeting, a Democratic aide said.

Gibbs appeared to be trying to reframe his comments when he said Tuesday that Democrats do not “have anything to be dispirited about.” He said the Democratic Party “will be invigorated” by actions taken by President Barack Obama and Congress in the coming months to boost the economy, the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds.

“We can take a robust case to the American people about the steps that we’ve taken to help this economy recover,” he said during a news briefing.

The White House spokesman declined to say whether his comments about the House GOP takeover were part of a strategy to spur Democrats into action in their campaigns. “I hesitate to lift the curtain quite that much,” he said.

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