After a crushing defeat for Democrats in the midterm elections, President Obama told American voters Wednesday he understands their frustrations and is fully prepared to work with Republicans in Congress.
“The American people sent a message, one that they’ve sent for several elections now — they expect the people they elect to work as hard as they do. They expect us to focus on their ambitions and not ours,” the president said during a news conference at the White House. “They want us to get the job done. All of us, in both parties, have a responsibility to address that sentiment. Still, as president, I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work. To everyone who voted, I want you to know I hear you.”
Republicans captured at least 52 seats in the Senate and solidified their advantage in the House on Tuesday. The outcome guarantees Mr. Obama will have to work with a Republican-controlled Congress during his final two years in office.
The president has come full-circle from his first years in power, when his party controlled the House and enjoyed a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Mr. Obama said he’s already spoken with House Speaker John A. Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He’ll meet with the Republican leaders and their Democratic counterparts at the White House on Friday.
Meanwhile, the president also is dealing with fire from his left flank.
Some progressives have blamed Mr. Obama for not doing enough to aid Democrats on the campaign trail. With a few notable exceptions, the president was absent from the stump, and some high-profile Democrats tried to push him even further away.
Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, for example, refused to say whether she voted for Mr. Obama. Ms. Lundergan Grimes lost badly Tuesday to Mr. McConnell.
Despite his unpopularity, liberals believe Mr. Obama could have helped shape the agenda for Democrats.
“There was no defined economic agenda in this election — and when elections are about nothing, Democrats lose. Looking forward, the Democratic Party must be focused on big ideas and popular economic issues,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the powerful Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
The PCCC and other progressive groups are urging Mr. Obama to move further to the left during the last two years of his term by embracing an expansion of Social Security benefits, for example.