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November 02, 2010

Obama: Election 'Shellacking' Shows Economic Frustration

by Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama says opposition Republicans' major gains in Tuesday's midterm elections show that Americans are frustrated with the country's economic problems.  The president also pledged to work with Republicans to solve those problems.

President Obama faced reporters Wednesday, and blamed the sluggish economy for Democrats' big losses at the polls.

"Yesterday's vote confirmed what I have heard from folks all across America," said President Obama. "People are frustrated, they are deeply frustrated with the pace of our economic recovery and the opportunities they hope for their children and their grandchildren.

Most of the hour-long White House press conference focused on the economy, and the president accepted responsibility for the slow recovery.

"Over the last two years we have made progress, but clearly too many Americans have not felt that progress yet, and they told us that yesterday," said Mr. Obama. "And as president, I take responsibility for that."

Republicans won control of the House of Representatives, gaining far more than the 39 seats they needed to move into the majority.  Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate, but lost several seats to the Republicans.

Republican John Boehner, now the House Minority Leader, will almost certainly become Speaker of the House.  Boehner has fought against most of Mr. Obama's initiatives, including the health care reform law, which the Republican leader has pledged to try to repeal.

The president called Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday night, and said he will try to work with them to solve the country's problems.

"I told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell last night I am very eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together," said President Obama. "I am not suggesting this will be easy."

Boehner said Wednesday he looks forward to cooperating with the president, but will not abandon the principles that propelled his party to victory on Tuesday.

"We discussed working together on the American people's priorities-cutting spending, creating jobs-and we hope that he will continue to be willing to work with us on those priorities," said Boehner. "But as I said last night, the new majority here in Congress will be the voice of the American people, and I think we clearly expressed that last night."

When a reporter asked Mr. Obama how it felt to watch so many of his Democratic allies being turned out of office, he replied bluntly, It feels bad.  But he said the experience may help him to become a better president by staying in closer touch with the American people.

"Now, I am not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night," said Mr. Obama. "I am sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.  But I do think that this is a growth process and an evolution."

Mr. Obama also pointed out that former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton suffered heavy losses in their first midterm elections and were both re-elected two years later.

Related video report by Laurel Bowman: