A Review Of The Midterm Elections NPR's Michele Norris talks to our regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution, and David Brooks of The New York Times, about the results of the midterm elections.

A Review Of The Midterm Elections

A Review Of The Midterm Elections

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NPR's Michele Norris talks to our regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution, and David Brooks of The New York Times, about the results of the midterm elections.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And we continue with politics with our two regular political observers, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, and David Brooks of the New York Times. Good to see both of you.

DIONNE: Good to see you.

DAVID BROOKS: Good to see you.

NORRIS: In big moments like this there are some core questions about leadership, is this the right person for the right time. At a point when Americans are very angry at both parties, frustrated about the direction of the country and the economy, is John Boehner the right man for this moment? I'm going to begin with you, David.

BROOKS: So it won't all be pleasure and light for Republicans and Democrats, but he is a more legislative craftsman than an ideological force.

NORRIS: And so, not a lost a chess pawning today E.J., but is he actually talking about doing small things? I mean, several people were elected with a much larger agenda, for instance, the full repeal of healthcare legislation.

DIONNE: I don't think Boehner at heart is the kind of politician who always wants to play it that way, but I think he may end up having to play it that way.

NORRIS: Can he hold his caucus together, particularly with the people who rode the Tea Party express to Washington?

DIONNE: Well, he's got such a big majority that he could lose some votes and still control his - get a majority on the floor. But I think he really has to watch his back both against potential rivals and against some - I mean, when you get an intake this big, you can get some interesting characters. You can also get some pretty extreme people.

NORRIS: Let's move to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue for a minute, and before we go on, I want to play a little bit of what the President had to say at his press conference this afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA PRESS CONFERENCE)

BARACK OBAMA: My core responsibility is making sure that we've got an economy that's growing, a middle class that feels secure, that jobs are being created. And so I think I've got to take direct responsibility for the fact that we have not made as much progress as we need to make.

NORRIS: Since this was seen as a referendum on the White House, in the end was this election about a sales job, or just lousy policy in the eyes of the public. David?

BROOKS: And I think he hasn't yet reckoned with the sense that a lot of independents who voted for him now think there was too much spending, too much liberalism, too much centralization.

NORRIS: E.J., everything about your body language suggests that you have something to say about that.

DIONNE: And so I think this creates a real challenge for Obama because on the one hand, he needs to re-engage his younger supporters, African-Americans. At the same time, he really has to reassure angry, legitimately angry, blue-collar whites in the Midwest. Democrats took it on the chin in Ohio and Pennsylvania. That's a huge deal.

NORRIS: We don't have a lot of time left. What does the president do now? Does he tack to the right by necessity, or does he stand and fight and try to use the GOP as a foil, moving into 2012?

DIONNE: I think he has no choice but to use it as his foil because I don't think, in the end, there are very many things the Republicans want to do business with him on.

NORRIS: Well, what are you going to do about it?

NORRIS: David?

BROOKS: Yeah, I agree with that. He takes the fiscal commission, which is going to report in a couple weeks, and he just embraces it and runs with it and says: I'm serious. What about you?

NORRIS: Since we've got agreement from both of you, I think we're going to leave it there.

DIONNE: Thank you.

BROOKS: Thank you.

NORRIS: Thanks to both of you. That's E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and David Brooks with the New York Times.

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