WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - It was a subdued and chastened president who took the podium for his post-election news conference today.
His tone flat, his eyes often downcast, his smile largely absent, Obama admitted the election results were “humbling.” At first, he tried to pin the blame on the tepid economic recovery, but as the questions ground on, he took more and more responsibility for the defeat on himself. For setting a bad tone with business, for not making enough progress on the economy, for failing to change the way Washington works.
Yet there was no contrition about the policies he pursued. Perhaps this was not the right venue for that, perhaps history will prove him right, but one had the feeling the president believed just as firmly as ever in the policies he had so painstakingly worked out in his long Oval Office deliberations. The Democrats who lost on Tuesday, he said, had already contacted him to say they had no regrets, because they felt “we were doing the right thing.”
Finally, Obama paused for reflection when Reuters correspondent Matt Spetalnick asked how he responded to the charge he was “out of touch” with voters’ economic pain, if he was now going to change his leadership style. His answer seemed to give a window into the human side of a president often described as aloof.
“You know, there is an inherent danger in being in the White House and being in the bubble,” he said. “I mean, folks didn’t have any complaints about my leadership style when I was running around Iowa for a year and they got a pretty good look at me, up close and personal, and they were able to lift the hood and kick the tires. And, you know, I think they understood that my story was theirs.”
“I might have a funny name. I might, you know, have lived in some different places, but the values of hard work and responsibility and honesty and looking out for one another that had been instilled in them by their parents, those were the same values that I took from my mom and my grandparents. And so, you know, the track record has been that when I’m out of this place, that’s not an issue. When you’re in this place, it is hard not to seem removed.”
In the end Obama said he had been on the receiving end of a “shellacking,” a version of the “thumpin’” Bush said he had received in 2006, a thumpin’ orchestrated by then Democratic campaign committee chief Rahm Emanuel.
Whether the president can escape the White House “bubble” and reconnect with the American people is going to be one of the most important and interesting questions of the second half of his presidency. This, just as much as working with Republicans, will be one of his greatest challenges.
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Here are our top stories from Washington today:
Exuberant Republicans vowed to exercise their new power in Congress to roll back some of President Obama’s key accomplishments, but a somber Obama said voters wanted both parties to work harder to find consensus. [ID:nN03266983]
Fed takes bold, risky step to bolster economy
The Federal Reserve launched an unorthodox new policy, committing to buy $600 billion more in government bonds by the middle of next year. [ID:nN03120542]
Boehner says spending cuts are No. 1
“It’s pretty clear the American people want us to do something about cutting spending here in Washington and helping to create an environment where we’ll get jobs back,” the presumptive new House Speaker told reporters. [ID:nN03263156]
For a story on how Republicans could “tweak” health reform, read here. [ID:nN03114576]
For a story on how the losses put Obama on the defensive, read here. [ID:nN03289243]
For a story on how Democrats and Republicans could work together on energy legislation, read here. [ID:nN0398422]
For a factbox on issues that might come up during the lame duck session, click here. [ID:nN0322410]
White House to business: Why can’t we be friends?
In 2009, President Obama hailed the “entrepreneurial spirit” of CEOs and said his goal was “not to disparage wealth but to expand its reach; not to stifle the market,” but to help spur innovation. Eighteen months later, oil and vinegar would be among the more polite ways to describe the state of the White House’s relationship with the business community.
For more of this special report on the White House’s struggles to get along with the business community, read here. [ID:nN28180076]
Elections down, U.S. presidential campaign begins
Is President Barack Obama beatable? Over the next few months more than a dozen Republican leaders will decide whether they can raise enough money and gain sufficient attention and voter support to seek the nomination for president. [ID:nN03272002]
For a factbox on potential Republican White House candidates, click here. [ID:nN03220792]
For a story on how the Tea Party could pose problems for Republicans, by David Morgan, read here. [ID:nN03280452]
Congress likely to be divided, gridlocked
“The newly elected crop of House and Senate Republicans will see their mission as not to compromise and cut deals with President Obama, but rather to destroy his remaining agenda and undo healthcare and financial services reform,” one analyst said. [ID:nN03293107]
Republican victories in congressional elections have boosted the chances for approval of three long-delayed free trade agreements and could mark the start of a cooperative effort between the White House and Congress to open new markets for exports. [ID:nN0392276]
Putin to Bush: My dog is bigger than yours
Vladimir Putin once boasted to President Bush about the size of his dog, in the ultimate “mine-is-bigger-than-yours.” Bush writes about the episode in his memoir, saying he had introduced Putin to his Scottish terrier, Barney, on a visit to Camp David. [ID:nNB3138078]
What we are blogging:
Election is over, now can they get along?
It’s the day after the election, and the big question is will they play nice? The Tea Party’s coming to town