WASHINGTON - President Obama implored top bankers yesterday to help keep the fragile recovery from faltering by boosting lending to small businesses and getting behind an overhaul of financial regulation. "We rise and fall together," Obama declared.

In response to the president's burst of populist jawboning, some banks pledged to increase loans and exercise more self-control over outsize compensation. But the government is losing leverage as major banks repay bailout loans.

Obama's lecture to the bankers was also part of a broader election-season Democratic effort to tie sluggish bank lending to continued high joblessness - and to try to tie the banking industry to GOP efforts against Obama's financial-overhaul legislation.

It's a balancing act, since big banks contribute to both parties.

Said Obama: "America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry, and now that they're back on their feet, we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy."