President Obama, somber and chastened in defeat, today pledged to listen to what voters were saying when they voted Democrats out of control of the House and statehouses across the country.
“Yesterday’s vote confirmed what I’ve heard from folks all across America,” he said in an opening statement at a post-election news conference in the East Room. “People are frustrated. They’re deeply frustrated with the pace of our economic recovery.”
He claimed to have made “progress” in ending the recession. But he acknowledged, “Too many Americans haven’t felt that progress yet and they told us that yesterday. And as president, I take responsibility for that.”
He added, “What yesterday also told us is that no one party will be able to dictate where we go from here.”
But he pledged to work with the newly triumphant Republicans.
Clearly stung by the drubbing Democrats took in Tuesday's elections, the president said there are areas his administration must change. “I’m doing a whole lot of reflecting,” he said, “and there are going to be areas where we have to do a better job.”
He also acknowledged one particular fault of his administration after his historic victory in November 2008. "We were in such a hurry to get things done that we didn't change how it got done,'' he said, adding that he had signed bills with controversial earmarks that drove up government spending.
Even a day before, Obama had harbored hopes his late campaigning and an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort could save many of the Democrats who had supported his proposals. Now the president faces the reality that Congress – both the Republican House and a decidedly more conservative Senate – will be hostile to almost everything on his domestic agenda.
But despite those numbers, he insisted that Washington can still get things done in the next two years.
“With so much at stake what the American people don’t want from us especially here in Washington is to spend the next two years fighting the political battles of last two,” he said. “We just had an election. We’ll have another in 2012, I’m not so naïve as to think that people will put aside politics until then. But I do hope to make progress on the very serious problems facing us right now.”
George Condon contributed to this article.