WASHINGTON — The settings for their annual retreats couldn't have been more similar: House Democrats and House Republicans decamped to separate private golf resorts in Virginia that provided ample privacy for days of reflection and planning. But the groups' mood and outlook couldn't have been more different.
House Democrats, who met this week at the Lansdowne Resort in Loudoun County, Va., emerged from their meetings convinced that even though they have the least political leverage of any political group in Congress, the national conversation is shifting in their direction.
On economic issues, gun control and immigration, they see growing national support and agreement with the nation's most popular elected official, President Barack Obama, who told them Thursday that he and they will be "joined at the hip" as they work to achieve his legislative goals.
"This is very upbeat," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., describing the mood at the Democratic retreat. "The election results very much energized us."
A GOP retreat held two weeks ago at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg was more introspective as Republicans conducted a somber assessment of their November election losses.
Democrats, meanwhile, celebrated their successes with speeches from the party's biggest stars — Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former president Bill Clinton — and a visit from comedian Stephen Colbert.
On Friday, Clinton advised Democrats to embrace the policies that have given the party its new edge, including the 2010 federal health-care law, and not to ease up on efforts to pass new laws on guns and immigration.
But he said Democrats must be careful not to alienate voters looking for a middle ground.
"You cannot assume that people that you look at and say, 'Oh now, that's not my demographic,' that they have nothing to say to you," Clinton said.