Last Tuesday’s House elections turned out to be a landslide victory for Republican candidates across the country, halfway through President Barack Obama’s first term in office.
In order to regain the majority, Republicans needed to gain 39 seats. But for angry voters and Tea Party activists, the simple majority wasn’t enough. Sixty seats were picked up to take an overwhelming lead in the House, the most by either party in a single election since 1948, when Democrats gained 75 new seats.
“The American people have sent an unmistakable message to (President Obama) tonight, and that message is ‘change course!’” The current House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) told a fired up crowd during a victory speech in Washington.
The major losses, however, were not unexpected. According to the Wall Street Journal, Democratic strategists predicted huge losses due to the high unemployment rate and the gains made by Democrats in conservative districts in the two previous Congressional elections.
“Bad economic times plus bad message equals bad result,” Democratic consultant James Carville told the Journal the day after the election.
However, not all is lost for Democrats. They still hold a majority of seats in the Senate, and Obama still has the power to veto any bill that comes his way.
The President tried to take most of the blame for the large scale defeat taken by the Democrats. During a press conference following the election, he said, “In the rush of activity, sometimes we lose track of the ways that we connected with folks that got us here in the first place.”
Obama conceded that he would try to cooperate in extending the tax cuts laid down by former President George W. Bush, despite previous remarks of insisting that Congress let the cuts expire. “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,” he said.
According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republicans are eager to discuss with the President the extension and “all the other issues that he has on his mind.” “We’re willing to start talking about getting an extension of some kind so that taxes don’t go up on anybody,” he said.
Obama also said he would not retreat from his efforts on healthcare reform, although Republicans are already thinking differently. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) said, “We will repeal the trillion-dollar health care bill that threatens to bankrupt this commonwealth [Virginia] and this country.” Cantor also told CBS, “I hope that we’re able to put a repeal bill on the floor.”
Current Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said, “The outcome of the election does not diminish the work we have done for the American people. We must all strive to find common ground to support the middle class, create jobs, reduce the deficit and move our nation forward.”
For the success of Obama’s agenda, and perhaps even his administration, this “common ground” must be achieved.