WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s come to pass now that President Barack Obama faces an emboldened Republican lead Congress that an adjustment to a new political dynamic began Wednesday after voters coast to coast used the midterm elections to sharpen the dividing lines in an already divided government.
The president scheduled an afternoon news conference to offer his take on an Election Day thumping of Democrats that gave Republicans new power to check his proposals. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was to give his version, too. He’s now positioned to become the new Senate majority leader and confront the president over his signature health care law and on other issues.
Faced with the imperative of constructing a new working relationship, the White House placed a post-midnight call to McConnell, but Obama and the senator didn’t connect. McConnell already had gone to bed. Obama did speak to more than two dozen House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates and congressional leaders from both parties before retiring, and was making more calls Wednesday, the White House said.
The election results made a statement: The GOP won control of the Senate and strengthened its hold on the House as a series of Democratic-leaning states fell under control of new Republican governors. Question is what did the voting public respond to? And who were the voters?
A pensive president considers his circumstance after the election. What choices and how he navigates the next two years will determine his legacy.
Democratic-leaning states fell under control of new Republican governors. Question is what did the voting public respond to? And who were the voters?
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, at a day-after news conference, celebrated the party’s victories at all levels and in states of all political stripes, saying: “This was all about a direct rejection of the Obama agenda.”
Sadly most voters are not knowledgeable of the President’s accomplishments. They are however tuned in to the popular sounds bites regarding unemployment. Truth is that the President has done much to see the country through the unprecedented financial crash that almost killed America and yet 6 years later we are standing, taking strides. Fortunately Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin returned to Washington to support the President.
Going forward, both sides will reassess their approach on immigration reform, budget matters, presidential nominations and much more. With lawmakers planning to return to Washington next week for a post election session, Obama invited congressional leaders to a meeting Friday.
McConnell, in an interview Monday with Time magazine that was published on Wednesday, looked ahead to what a GOP-controlled Senate might do. He listed a series of action items, including approval of the long-delayed Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline and “trying to get rid of the individual mandate,” which is central to the president’s health care law. McConnell also said he’d look for areas where “we might be able to agree with the president,” such as tax changes and trade agreements. He said there was “no possibility” of a government shutdown.
House Speaker John Boehner, who will preside over a larger caucus come January. “It’s time for government to start getting results and implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country, starting with our still-struggling economy.”
With the 2014 midterms in the rearview mirror, 2016 and the next presidential race loom large. It was no coincidence that two potential GOP contenders for 2016 – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky – turned up on morning talk shows Wednesday to deconstruct the results and cast them as a good sign for the GOP going forward.
Exit polls show the GOP drew strength from voters who felt left behind economically. Almost half said their own families’ financial situations hadn’t improved much over the past two years, and a fourth said it had gotten worse. Those who said their finances were worse supported Republican congressional candidates by more than a 2-1 margin.
Even as they turned against Obama and Democrats, voters also expressed scant confidence in Republican leaders, underscoring the increased pressure that Republicans will face to deliver next year when they control both houses of Congress.
Obama will have early opportunities to set a new tone in dealing with the Republicans.
He has promised immigration advocates that he’ll issue presidential orders this year to shield from deportation millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, but three GOP senators have asked him to hold off on that. Obama also could act unilaterally on the Keystone pipeline, which has wide bipartisan support in Congress, in order to avert an early showdown with the new Congress.
Obama’s poor approval ratings turned him into a liability for Democrats seeking re-election. The outcome offered parallels to the sixth year of Republican George W. Bush’s presidency, when Democrats won sweeping victories amid voter discontent with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Senate Republicans tagged their Democratic opponents with voting in lockstep with Obama and it worked: The GOP took over formerly Democratic Senate seats in seven states.
With three races yet to be settled, the GOP had claimed 52 seats in the next Senate, to win back the majority for the first time since 2006. Senate races in Virginia and Alaska were still to be settled, and Louisiana was headed for a Dec. 6 runoff between three-term Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Outside groups were standing ready with millions in advertising time for the Louisiana runoff. The Koch-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund had reserved more than $2 million in airtime, starting with ads that Louisiana voters were to begin seeing on Wednesday. The Senate Republicans’ campaign arm had booked $2.8 million in ads and the Senate Democrats’ committee already had planned $1.8 million in ads.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada – soon to lose his majority – will seek to lead Democrats again in the next Congress as their minority leader, Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said Wednesday. He said other Democrats had indicated Reid was unlikely to face a challenge.
In the House, where more than a dozen races remained unsettled, Republicans were on track to meet or exceed the 246 seats they held during President Harry S. Truman’s administration more than 60 years ago.
In state capitols, Republicans picked up governors’ seats in reliably Democratic states like Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. With Congress grappling with gridlock, states have been at the forefront of efforts to raise the minimum wage and implement Obama’s health care law.