Fed up after six years of Barack Obama in the White House, U.S. voters delivered a powerful and punishing rebuke to the president in midterm elections that gave Republicans control of both Houses of Congress.
“It’s a reflection of the president’s lack of leadership, his lack of leadership abroad, his lack of leadership at home,” said Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor and a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016.
After months of vowing to govern whether or not adversaries were willing to strike deals, the Obama White House was suddenly sounding a very different tone in the wake of the Republican sweep of almost every closely contested Senate contest.
Mr. Obama will hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon where he is expected to acknowledge that voters are tired of the endless standoff between the White House and Republicans in Congress.
With Republicans firmly in control of the Senate, Mr. Obama’s spokesman was conciliatory. “The president is going to continue to look for partners on Capitol Hill, Democrats or Republicans, who are willing to work with him,” said Josh Earnest, on Tuesday, long before the full scope of the rout was clear.
If Mr. Obama was the big loser, then Big Oil and those like Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper backing the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline may be early winners.
Republicans will try to force Mr. Obama to approve the controversial pipeline by passing legislation that will now sail through both Houses of Congress. Whether the presidential will capitulate and agree to the project to funnel upwards of 1-million barrels a day of heavy Alberta oils sands crude to refineries close to Gulf Coast ports or veto the bill may signal whether the president’s last two years will be ones of deadlock or compromise.
A bill to repeal Obamacare is also expected but the president will almost certainly reject scrapping the centrepiece of his legacy.
“We will send the president bill after bill until he wearies of it,” warned Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, a tea party favourite and potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Many expect changes in the White House as senior staffers leave and Mr. Obama puts together a team to deal with the very changed political landscape in Washington.
Republicans triumphed across the board Tuesday, adding to their already-big majority in the House of Representatives and taking control of the Senate. The president’s party failed in a high-stakes effort to oust Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican now destined to become the Majority Leader in the Senate.
“I don’t expect the president to wake up tomorrow and view the world any differently than he did when he woke up this morning,” the tough and dour Mr. McConnell said in his victory speech. “I won’t either. But we do have an obligation to work together on issues where we can agree.”
There may not be many, especially with the 2016 presidential elections already looming and Republicans determined not to rehabilitate Mr. Obama’s sagging reputation.
The first morning-after effort to talk ended poorly. Mr. Obama called Mr. McConnell but the Republican was unavailable and the president left a message, the White House said.
In what turned out to be a long night of defeats, Republicans added at least seven Senate seats – they only needed six to win a majority – and were on course to add two more.
Fittingly perhaps, it was Joni Ernst, the Republican whose memorable campaign quip that learning to castrate piglets as an Iowa farm girl made her the ideal candidate to send to Washington, gave her party the Senate majority as the Democratic rout unfolded.
Ms. Ernst, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard and a combat veteran of the Iraq war, told her supporters: “It’s a long way from Red Oak to Washington, from the biscuit line at Hardee’s to the United States Senate … but, thanks to all of you we are heading to Washington. And we are going to make ‘em squeal.”
Making them squeal portends tough times ahead for the Democrats.
Few expect an end to gridlock but there is plenty of historical precedent for the president of one party doing deals with a Congress controlled by the other. Whether Mr. Obama and the Republican leadership can deliver as an effective working partnership remains unclear.
Tax reform, immigration and cutting greenhouse gas emissions are all high on Mr. Obama’s agenda. Aside from tax reform, the president and the Republican leadership that will control Congress are far apart and the bitter partisan wrangling may get worse over the next two years.
Among the losers on Tuesday were moderate Democratic incumbents like North Carolina’s Sen. Kay Hagan and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor and Colorado’s Mark Udall; all defeated by Republican challengers.
Republican Shelley Moore Capito won in West Virginia, taking a vacant Senate seat that had been in Democratic hands since 1956. In South Dakota, Republican Mike Rounds won in another formerly Democratic seat. The Republicans gained a Senate seat in Montana, where Steve Daines won another formerly Democratic seat.
Republicans also picked up Senate seats in Colorado, Montana and West Virginia. In Alaska, another Democratic incumbent, Sen. Mark Begich, was behind his Republican challenger and expected to lose.
WASHINGTON — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Nov. 05 2014, 7:56 AM EST
Last updated Wednesday, Nov. 05 2014, 11:05 AM EST