* Obama speaks to Geithner, Summers, Romer
* Grim economic news could hurt Democrats (Updates with background on economy, election)
By Jeff Mason
VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass., Aug 25 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama held a conference call with top economic advisers on Wednesday to discuss newly released grim data that has raised fears the economy is at risk of a new downturn.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House advisers Christy Romer and Larry Summers took part in the call with the president, who is vacationing on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Government reports on Wednesday showed new single-family home sales slumped to the slowest pace on record in July and orders for costly durable goods were soft, heightening fears about the economy’s direction. [N25121445]
“The discussion focused on recent data reports, global markets and economic growth,” the White House said in a statement describing the call.
“The economic team provided an update on the next steps to keep the economy growing, including assistance to small businesses and the extension of tax cuts to the middle class,” it said.
With elections looming in November, further evidence of a slowing economy could dent Obama’s Democrats’ chances of fighting off Republicans, who are expected to make electoral gains that could alter the balance of power in Congress.
Highlighting that political fight, John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, called on Tuesday for Obama to fire his economic team and replace Geithner and Summers with “grown-ups” who accept responsibility.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton declined on Tuesday to say whether the White House was concerned, specifically, about a double-dip recession, after data showed a record drop in existing home sales in July.
“The president is doing everything that we think is appropriate to continue moving the economy in the right direction,” Burton told reporters in Martha’s Vineyard. “There is more that we can be doing.” (Editing by Peter Cooney)