Obama: Midterm Election Was A 'Shellacking'

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At the White House on Wednesday, President Obama acknowledged that he'd taken a "shellacking" in Tuesday's midterm elections. NPR's Robert Siegel and Michele Norris tell us what else the president had to say.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Over at the White House this afternoon, President Obama said the vote confirmed what he'd been hearing from Americans across the country - that they're deeply frustrated.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Frustrated, he said, about the pace of economic recovery, about the lack of opportunities for their children, about partisan bickering.

President BARACK OBAMA: I ran for this office to tackle these challenges and give voice to the concerns of everyday people. Over the last two years we've made progress. But clearly too many Americans haven't felt that progress yet. And they told us that yesterday. And as president, I take responsibility for that.

NORRIS: Still, Mr. Obama stopped short of accepting the election as a repudiation of his policies. For instance, he said this on health care.

Pres. OBAMA: I think we'd be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years re-litigate arguments that we had over the last two years.

SIEGEL: He said making sure families have security and that the country's on a trajectory to lower health care costs is absolutely critical. But he said he regretted that the process was, in his words, an ugly mess. And the president said he'd be happy to look at Republicans' ideas to make some modifications and improvements on health care.

Pres. OBAMA: I think what's going to be useful is for us to go through, you know, the issues that Republicans have issues on. Not sort of talking generally, but let's talk specifics, you know. This particular provision, when it comes to preexisting conditions, is something you're for or you're against? Helping seniors get their prescription drugs, does that make sense or not?

NORRIS: President Obama said he's been doing a lot of reflecting. He said he knows he has to do, in his words, a better job. And he talked of working together with Republicans.

Pres. OBAMA: I'm not suggesting this will be easy. I won't pretend that we will be able to bridge every difference or solve every disagreement. There's a reason we have two parties in this country and both Democrats and Republicans who have certain beliefs and certain principles that each feels cannot be compromised.

SIEGEL: And there was a poignant moment in the hour-long news conference when a reporter asked President Obama how it feels to see setbacks to his own party, the losses suffered by some of his friends, Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia, Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio.

Unidentified Man: What does it feel like?

Pres. OBAMA: It feels bad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Pres. OBAMA: You know, the toughest thing over the last couple of days is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve anymore, at least in the short term.

NORRIS: President Obama talking about the 2010 midterm elections at a White House news conference this afternoon.

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