By Justin Sink
President Obama will hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon, facing the White House press corps one day after Democrats were blown out in the midterm elections.
White House aides acknowledge that Tuesday night was tough, but say they and the president recognize the message sent by the results.
Obama attempted to call Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCongress fails on promises to restore regular order and stop funding by crisis Overnight Healthcare: Dems dig in over Zika funding Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board MORE, slated to become the new majority leader, last night, but couldn’t connect with the newly reelected Kentucky Republican. The president left a message for McConnell and spoke to numerous other House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates from both parties.
Officials say White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis McDonoughOvernight Defense: Benghazi report fallout | Nearly 50 dead after Istanbul attack Benghazi report: State worried about image of Marines marching through city Ryan secures big win with bipartisan Puerto Rico deal MORE has been quietly working for weeks to prepare for the remainder of the president’s second term. That has included planning for the upcoming lame-duck session, as well as the 2015 State of the Union address and the final two years of Obama’s presidency. Part of that process has been soliciting outside advice, and the White House believes it is prepared to confront the challenge of Republican control in both congressional chambers.
The president, aides say, is eager to get to work, telling staff he wants them to make the most out of every day of his remaining time in office.
And the administration is hoping to convey a willingness to work with new Republican leadership in light of Tuesday’s stinging rebuke.
But the president will also face tough questions about his role in the midterm losses. Republican candidates successfully turned the midterms into a referendum on Obama’s presidency, and the president’s low approval ratings appeared to weigh heavily on his party in races across the country.
In a story published late Tuesday night in The Washington Post, the chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOvernight Finance: Obama signs Puerto Rico bill | Trump steps up attacks on trade | Dodd-Frank backers cheer 'too big to fail' decision | New pressure to fill Ex-Im board Iowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case MORE (D-Nev.) slammed the president for his role in the losses. David Krone said the White House limited access to donors and Democratic dollars. He also said the president spoiled the party’s midterm message and that the botched rollout of the ObamaCare website hurt candidates.
“No member of the Democratic caucus screwed up the rollout of that health-care Web site,” Krone told the newspaper. “Yet they paid the price — every one of them.”
Before the election results were even settled, Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House on Friday for a meeting to discuss priorities for the upcoming lame-duck session.
An administration official said Obama had been part of the planning process for the final two years, and wanted to make a new push to forge alliances in the new Congress. At the same time, the president is expected to continue his push to make changes administratively.
That includes executive action on immigration reform. On Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest vowed Obama would forge ahead with changes to immigration policy no matter what the results of the election.
“Regardless of the outcome over the course of the next two years, the president will look for ways to use his executive authority to benefit middle-class families,” Earnest said, vowing an announcement on immigration “before the end of the year.”
While the president hopes to use the news conference primarily to signal an eagerness to work with the new GOP Senate — and project focus following his party’s drubbing at the polls — the White House is also concerned that Obama not use Wednesday’s press conference to self-inflict additional wounds.
According to The Wall Street Journal, White House staffers still regret that, during a similar news conference after the 2010 midterms, the president used the word “shellacking,” giving a colorful descriptor to the sweeping losses.
“It is fair to say that many of us in 2010 had wished he had not said ‘shellacking’ and would like to get out of this election, if we have a bad result, without a similarly colorful noun to describe our performance,” an official told the paper.
The president will speak to reporters at 2:50 p.m. from the White House East Room.
Updated at 7:55 a.m.