Obama describes midterm losses as a ‘shellacking’ by Republicans

President Obama appeared humbled, reflective and conciliatory
about the “shellacking” his party received Tuesday during a post-mortem news
conference at the White House.

The president largely rejected the notion that Americans
overwhelming voted for Republicans Tuesday as a failing grade on his policies,
blaming instead high unemployment and a slow economic recovery.

{mosads}But Obama, appearing relaxed and in good spirits, said he
would take responsibility for both his party’s losses and the shape of the

“Ultimately, I’ll be judged as president by the bottom line — results,” he said Wednesday, acknowledging that there is “no doubt that
people’s number one concern was the economy.”

Obama said the loss of more than 60 House seats and majority
control in the lower chamber “underscores for me that I’ve got to do a better
job, just like everybody else in Washington.”

“We were in such a hurry to get things done that we forgot
to change how things get done in Washington,” he said.

Republican leaders reveling in their massive victory, which
exceeded the total of House seats won in the 1994 wave election, continued to
blast Obama for his administration’s spending. They vowed to cut spending
across the board, and also promised to push for a repeal of Obama’s healthcare

On the last point, Obama was not combative in defending or
preparing to fight for his signature domestic agenda item, but said
Republicans would be “misreading” Tuesday’s results if they spend the next two
years “relitigating” the battles of the past two years.

“No one party will be able to dictate where we go from
here,” Obama said.

The president seemed chastened by the results from Tuesday
night, specifically addressing losses in the House like that of Rep. Tom
Perriello (D-Va.), saying it “feels bad” seeing lawmakers who supported his
policies losing.

“It’s hard, and I take responsibility for it in a lot of
ways,” Obama said.

He offered a few examples of possible compromise with the

He said he supported second-ranking GOP Rep. Eric Cantor’s
(Va.) proposed earmark moratorium, and suggested he was open to modify IRS
reporting requirements for small businesses contained within his signature
healthcare bill.

But Obama also exhorted Republicans to negotiate in good
faith and put aside politics to the best of their ability. He suggested one
message from voters was for the two parties to work together instead of taking
shots at one another.

“What Americans don’t want from us is spending the next two
years re-fighting the battles of the last two,” he said.

But Obama added: “I’m not so naive to think everybody will
put politics aside until then.”

Republican leaders said they hoped to work constructively
with Obama.

House GOP leader John Boehner (Ohio), who is expected to be Speaker of the 112th Congress, said and the president have already spoken about spending

“We discussed working together on the American peoples’
priorities: cutting spending, creating jobs,” said Boehner of their call. “And
we hope that he will continue to be willing to work with us on those

But Republicans are also under tremendous pressure from
within their own party to not cave on some of their biggest vows to voters, and
fear repercussions in 2012 if they don’t placate angry conservatives. That will
make it difficult for them to compromise.

Obama suggested both parties will continue to lose favor
from voters if they do not cooperate.

Returning to the “car in a ditch” metaphor he repeatedly
employed during the campaign, Obama said the message from voters was that they
want “Democrats and Republicans both pushing some more to get the car on level

To that end, the president who ran on a platform of hope
just two years ago said he remains optimistic that he and the GOP will be able
to work together.

“I do believe there’s hope for civility,” Obama said Wednesday. “I believe
there’s hope for progress.”

—This story was first posted at 1:41 p.m. and updated at 2:51 p.m.

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