U.S. President Barack Obama said the results of the midterm elections reveal that Americans do not believe enough progress has been made on the economy and that he must take responsibility for that.
Speaking to reporters in a news conference a day after Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives, Obama stressed that some progress has been made in the economy but that people across America aren’t feeling that progress.
“And they told us that yesterday,” he said.
“I’ve got to take direct responsibility for the fact that we have not made as much progress as we need to make,” Obama said.
The Republican Party — energized by the Tea Party movement and voter disillusionment with the president, incumbents and the struggling U.S. economy — picked up at least 60 formerly Democratic seats, easily exceeding the number of seats needed to gain a majority in the House. The Republicans fell short of the gains needed to control the Senate.
Asked whether the results reveal that voters are rejecting his agenda and policies, Obama would only say that Americans are not satisfied with the economy.
But he did say that “people started looking at all this, and it felt as if government was getting much more intrusive into people’s lives than they were accustomed to.”
He also said it was important for the two parties to find common ground and that he was eager to sit down with party members to figure out how to move forward.
“What yesterday also told us was that no one party will be able to dictate where we go from here,” he said.
John Boehner, Republican House leader from Ohio, celebrates an election victory that will likely elevate him to Speaker of the House. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)Republican House leader John Boehner, who is expected to replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi, told reporters Wednesday that the Republican gains were proof that “the Obama-Pelosi agenda” was rejected by the American people.
He said Americans were “concerned about the government takeover of health care” but added that it’s “important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this monstrosity.”
Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a former boxer who defeated Tea Party-backed candidate Sharron Angle in a tough race in Nevada, said Wednesday morning that he was ready for “some tweaking” of the health-care bill.
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“But I’m not going to in any way denigrate the great work we did as a country, in saving America from bankruptcy because of the insurance industry bankrupting us,” he told CNN’s American Morning.
Reid said members of both parties need to work together and “set aside our speeches and start rolling up our sleeves.”
The president phoned Boehner late Tuesday to say he looked forward to working with him and the Republicans “to find common ground, move the country forward and get things done for the American people,” the White House said.
Boehner told the president he wanted to collaborate on voters’ top priorities, creating jobs and cutting spending, The Associated Press reported.
But after his victory, Boehner said the new majority “will be prepared to do things differently.”
“It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it,” he said.
Democrats keep majority in Senate
But it wasn’t a total Republican victory — Democrats narrowly retained their Senate majority, losing at least six seats but beating back tough challenges in key states like Nevada, West Virginia and California.
U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who faced a Tea Party favourite, Republican Sharron Angle, in his race for re-election, celebrates his victory at his election night party in Las Vegas on Tuesday. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun/Reuters)“I’ve been in some pretty tough fights in my day,” Reid said after his victory. “They’ve been in the street, and in the boxing ring and in the United States Senate — but I have to admit, this has been one of the toughest.”
At least three close Senate races — in Alaska, Colorado and Washington state — were still undecided early Wednesday.
The midterms were also the first major test for the Tea Party movement, made up of people angered by what they see as excessive government spending and growth.
“Tonight, there’s a Tea Party tidal wave, and we’re sending a message,” said Rand Paul, a Tea Party-backed candidate who defeated Democratic rival Jack Conway in the race for Kentucky’s open U.S. Senate seat.
New political landscape
“Obama faces a very different political landscape, and he’s going to have to find a new way to be president,” CBC’s Michael Colton said from Washington.
“This election was in great measure a referendum on him, and voters have rebuked this president and said about as clearly as they can that they are not happy.”
Colton said one major question is how unified the Republicans will be.
“These new Tea Party members who will become part of their caucus — they’re a fairly radical bunch, so it may be hard to keep them in line,” Colton said.
“The Republicans have won a share of power, yes, but it’s not at all clear what they’ll do with it or what they’ll be able to do,” he said.
Tony Welch, a Democratic strategist, told CBC News it will be a challenge to find common ground, since many Republicans said during the campaign that they would not compromise.
“I can’t see how you can make the Tea Party happy and negotiate with President Obama,” he said.
Welch said that Republicans may have “little incentive to compromise,” but he said he doesn’t think voters would reward Republicans again if the economy doesn’t improve.
“It’s a message of fiscal sanity. It’s a message of limited — limited constitutional government and balanced budgets,” he said.
Marco Rubio, another Tea Party-backed candidate, won in a three-way Senate race in Florida. Rubio said Republicans should also be prepared for change.
“We make a grave mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party,” Rubio said.
“What they are is a second chance — a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.”
But the Tea Party may have cost Republicans at least two Senate seats. Besides Angle’s loss, Christine O’Donnell was beaten by Democrat Chris Coons in Delaware.
O’Donnell failed to overcome questions about her thin resumé, financial problems and history of provocative claims on TV talk shows, such as her dabbling in witchcraft as a teenager.
Republicans also made gains in the 37 governors’ races at stake Tuesday, capturing at least 10 governorships from Democrats and several state legislatures. Democrats gained two Republican-held governorships — in California and Hawaii. The vote count continued in seven governors’ races that were too close to call.
Republican gains complicate Obama agenda
The Republican gains will complicate Obama’s ability to enact his proposals during the last two years of his term, and possibly force him to fight off attacks on health-care legislation and other bills already signed into law.
Although international affairs had little role in the campaign, Obama’s global agenda also would be affected in areas such as arms control and climate change.
Before the first results came in, Washington was buzzing with speculation about whether Republican gains would lead to gridlock or attempts to find common ground, and how they would affect Obama’s prospects for re-election in 2012.