President Barack Obama Press Conference from The White House After the Midterm Elections - "Last Night's Shellacking"

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After last night’s ‘shellacking,’ President Barack Obama
laments voter disconnect (with Full VIDEO of Press

WASHINGTON — The afternoon after the Republican Party took back control of the House of
Representatives, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the White House, speaking
somberly about the takeover. “Some election nights are more fun than others,” he said.

Obama said Tuesday’s results confirmed what he’s heard from voters across the country: people
are frustrated. He said the lesson of election was that he hasn’t made enough progress in creating

“As I reflect on the results of the election, it underscores for me that I’ve got to do a better job,”
he said. “We were in such a hurry to get things done,” the president added, “we didn’t change
how we got things done.”

He called the election a Democratic “shellacking” and lamented that “we lost track of the ways
we connected with the folks who got us here in the first place.”
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He said it was also difficult to witness “really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to
serve anymore.”

Obama said he understands that the public may feel that his agenda has bordered on government
overreach. He contends that many of the decisions he made during his first two years in office
were the result of an “emergency situation” created by the economic crisis.

The president says his advisers knew they were taking a risk by implementing costly government
bailouts of the banks and auto industry, but said those decisions were necessary.

Earlier Wednesday, Minority Leader John Boehner said that while he is willing to work with the
White House and Democrats, he is adamant about trying to repeal the administration’s health
care overhaul — calling it a “monstrosity.”

The law “will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world, and bankrupt
our country,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told a news conference.

In response, the president said Wednesday he’ll listen to Republican concerns and ideas — but
insists he won’t scrap the overhaul completely.
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The presumptive next speaker of the House also said the Republican takeover of the chamber
and its success in narrowing the Democratic Senate majority was proof that “the Obama-Pelosi
agenda” was rejected by the American people.

Republicans picked up at least 60 seats in Tuesday’s elections to hold a solid majority in next
year’s House. Boehner is expected to get the top job of House speaker, supplanting Democrat
Nancy Pelosi.

Asked how soon House Republicans would move to repeal the health care law, Boehner said “it’s
important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this monstrosity and replace
with it commonsense reforms that will bring down the cost of health care in America.”

Video: Watch President Obama’s press conference

He also suggested that the GOP’s cooperation was conditional, saying: “We hope President
Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course and commit to making the changes
they are demanding. To the extent he is willing to do this, we are ready to work with him.”

The president said he was eager to sit down with the leaders of both political parties “and figure
out how we can move forward together.”

“It won’t be easy,” he said Wednesday, noting the two parties differ profoundly in some key

Big night for GOP
Boehner’s comments followed a heady night for Republicans — scoring the chamber’s biggest
party turnover in more than 70 years.
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But with Democrats still in control of the Senate, it would be very difficult for House
Republicans to repeal the health care measure. Democrats did lose ground in the Senate on
Tuesday, but kept their majority, according to result tallies from NBC News.
Video: Boehner claims mandate to repeal ‘monstrosity’ health bill (on this page)

Moreover, Obama still holds his veto power and the Republicans do not have sufficient numbers
to override.

Obama does face the potential for legislative gridlock that could stymie his agenda in the final
half of his term. Even with his Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress, he spent his
first two years battling to pass legislation.

The White House said Obama called Boehner to say he looked forward to working with him and
the Republicans “to find common ground, move the country forward and get things done for the
American people.”
Vote: Agree or disagree with Boehner on health plan?
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The stinging blow to Obama and his Democrats reflected Americans’ anxiety about their
livelihoods and anger about the economy, where unemployment remains stuck near 10 percent.

The elections were also the biggest test yet of the two-year-old ultraco

nservative Tea Party movement, angered by what it sees as the excessive growth of government.
It produced a crop of Republican candidates often at odds with the party establishment, and some
of them won key races.
Story: With governor wins, GOP gains clout to fight health law

In the Senate, Republicans won at least six seats now held by Democrats. Among them was
Obama’s old seat in Illinois, captured by a congressman, Mark Kirk.

But Democrats won one of the most-closely watched races, with Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid defeating Sharron Angle, a favorite of the Tea Party movement. Democrats also retained
seats targeted by Republicans in West Virginia and California, where liberal incumbent Barbara
Boxer defeated former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina.

Republicans needed to gain 10 seats to take control of the 100-member Senate. As of early
Wednesday, Democrats had 51 seats, including two independents, to 46 for Republicans. Three
races were not yet decided — in Alaska, Colorado and Washington state.

Among the Senate races yet to be called was one in Alaska, where Joe Miller, a candidate
supported by the Tea Party and former Gov. Sarah Palin, faces a strong write-in challenge from
the incumbent he defeated in the Republican primary, Lisa Murkowski. Democrat Scott
McAdams is trailing in third place. The two other races, in Washington state and Colorado,
remain too close to call.
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Republicans were also making gains in the 37 governors’ races, capturing at least 10
governorships from Democrats and several state legislatures. Democrats gained two Republican-
held governorships — in California and Hawaii. The vote count continued in seven governors’
races that were too close to call. The gubernatorial races were especially important as states
conduct the once-a-decade post-census task of redrawing congressional districts.

Although the president was not on the ballot, Republicans campaigned against his policies, while
some Democrats distanced themselves from him. Republicans capitalized on voter anxiety about
high unemployment and a rising federal deficit.

1:57 ET: That’s the conclusion of the press conference. Thanks for following along here on
NBC’s First Read.

1:56 ET: When he talks to regular Americans, Obama says, “I always come away from those
interactions feeling so much more optimistic about this country.”

1:53 ET: Self-reflective Obama says he need to make sure that he gets out of the White House to
reach the American public.

But he alludes to Reagan and Clinton, who stood at the podium two years into their own
presidencies “getting similar questions.”

“This is something that every president needs to go through,” he says.

Although “I am not recommending that every president takes a shellacking like they did last
night,” he adds with a bit of a wry smile.

1:51 ET: Asked if he thinks voters might have seen him as “out of touch,” Obama responds that
there’s a danger to being “in the bubble” of the White House.

“Folks didn’t have any complaints about my leadership style when I was running around Iowa
for a year.”

“How do I meet my responsibilities here in the White House .. but still have that opportunity to
engage with the American people .. and give them confidence that I am listening to them.”

1:50 ET: “The most important thing we can do is to boost and encourage our business sector and
make sure that they’re hiring.”

1:48 ET: “The only way America succeeds is if businesses succeed.”

1:45 ET: A moment of levity: Obama toys with idea of “Slurpee summit” with Boehner.

“They are delicious drinks.”

1:44 ET: “When I came into office, this economy was in a freefall. The economy has stabilized.
The economy is growing. … It would hard to argue that we’re going backwards.” But, he adds,
we might be “stuck in neutral.”
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1:41 ET: “The American people understand that we’re still digging our way out of a pretty big

1:40 ET: On ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — Obama notes that the “overwhelming majority” of
Americans thinks that the policy should be confirmed. “We need to provide certainty” to the
military on the issue. “This should not be a partisan issue”

1:38 ET: “Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat” on energy. The EPA wants help
from the legislature on greenhouse gasses, he says.

1:37 ET: On health care negotiation, Obama regrets that “we couldn’t have made the process …

1:36 ET: Asked if he’s willing to compromise on the question of allowing tax cuts for the very
wealthy to expire — which Republicans generally oppose and Obama has vehemently opposed
— Obama says “my goal is to make sure we don’t have a huge spike in taxes for the middle

That answer doesn’t address the highest tier of the tax cuts, perhaps showing some openness to
extending those cuts.

He says his goal is to sit down with Boehner, McConnell, Reid, and Pelosi to “see where we can
move forward in a way that first of all does no harm.”

“How that negotiation works itself out, I think it’s too early to say.”

1:34 ET: “It feels bad,” Obama says of watching “terrific public servants not have the
opportunity to serve anymore.”

He lauds Democrats who took tough votes and showed “courage” and “conviction” in their
choices. He says there is some “questioning on my part as to whether I could have done
something different or something more” to have helped the defeated lawmakers keep their seats.

1:31 ET: Obama says Americans want greater transparency, takes responsibility for “not having
pushed harder on some of those issues”

1:30 ET: “Let’s make some progress on those areas we do agree on,” Obama says. Names energy

1:29 ET: Obama acknowledges that the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House earlier this year
will not have the votes to pass again in the new session.

1:27 ET: “I’ve been willing to compromise in the past, and I am willing to compromise going

1:26 ET: He urges “intelligent, smart” budget cuts.
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1:24 ET: Obama: The key is to be able to distinguish between stuff that isn’t adding to our
growth … and things that are absolutely necessary to create jobs.

He also mentions keeping taxes low for middle-income families — an allusion to the Bush tax
cuts debate that looms during the upcoming lame duck session.

1:23 ET: CBS’s Chip Reid asks what can be done to create jobs, especially if Republicans take
stimulus spending off the table. “What are our priorities? What do we care about? That’s going to
be a tough debate.”

1:21 ET: On health care revisions: “This is different than campaigning. This is now governing.”

1:19 ET: But Obama still stands by the premise of the health care bill. “This was the right thing
to do.” He adds that he’s open to Republican modifications that would bring down costs. “I’m
happy to consider some of their ideas.”

Obama acknowledges that the unpopular 1099 provision attached to the health care bill, which
would require small businesses to file additional paperwork, could be “probably

“That’s something we should take a look at.”

1:19 ET: FOX reporter asks if the health care bill is in danger at this point? Obama’s response:
We’d be misreading the election if we said the American people wanted to see us relitigate things
we’ve argued over the last two years.

1:19 ET: “Ultimately I’m going to be judged as president because of the bottom line: Results.”

1:17 ET: “If right now we had five percent unemployment instead of 9.6 percent unemployment,
people would have more confidence in [my] policy choices.”

1:16 ET: The president says he signed bills with earmarks “in the rush to get things done” early
in his presidency.

1:15 ET: Obama has not yet specifically mentioned the health care bill, focusing on unpopular
“emergency” measures that were meant to help the economy.

1:12 ET: NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asks whether Obama is reflecting on his policy decisions and
whether voters may perceive him as just “not getting it.”

“It felt as if government was getting much more intrusive in people’s lives than they were
accustomed to,” Obama responds, but argues that the policies that prompted that feeling of
overrreach were responses to crisis situations.

1:09 ET: “There are going to be areas where we disagree,” says Obama. Voters’ message was:
“We want everybody to act responsily in Washington. We want you to work harder at arriving at
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“I gotta do a better job, just like everyone in Washington does,” he says.

1:08 ET: Asked if the election was a referendum on his policies, Obama says that voters were
expressing frustration with the economy. Despite forward motion, “people across America are
not feeling that progress. They’re not seeing it.”

1:07 ET: “I do believe there is hope for civility. I do believe there is hope for progress.”

1:06 ET: Obama notes that there will be another election in 2012. “I’m not so naive as to think
that everybody will put politics aside until then.” We must work harder to build consenses, he
says. “Including me.”

1:06 ET: No party has “a monopoly on wisdom,” Obama says. He adds that he wants a “civil”
debate, “serious conversations about where we’re going as a nation.”

1:05 ET: To win economic competition against other countries, “we’re going to have to be
strong, and we’re going to have to be united.”

1:04 ET: Obama says that the country has made progress over the past two years. But, “Clearly,
too many Americans have not felt that progress. Yesterday, they told us that.”

“As president, I take responsibility for that.”

1:03 ET: Voters expect Washington to work for them, not against them, Obama says. They want
to know that their voices are not being drowned out.

1:02 ET: “Yesterday’s vote confirmed what I’ve heard” in my travels across America. “People
are frustrated.”

1:02 ET: “Some election nights are more fun than others .. some are exhilarating, some are

1:01 ET: Obama: I told Boehner and McConnell that I look forward to working with them.

1:01 ET: The president has arrived.

12:55 p.m. ET: We’ll be live-blogging the president’s remarks scheduled for 1 p.m. ET in this
space. Stay tuned.

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