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Obama strikes defiant tone after defeats

November 6, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama struck a defiant tone a day after Democrats lost control of the Senate and suffered big losses in House and governors’ races across the country.

Obama defended his policies, stood by his staff and showed few signs of changing an approach to dealing with congressional Republicans that has generated little more than gridlock in recent years.

Rather than accept the election results as a repudiation of his own administration, the president said voters were disenchanted with Washington as a whole. And rather than offering dour assessments of his party’s electoral thrashing, as he did after the 2010 midterms, the president insisted repeatedly that he was optimistic about the country’s future.

“It doesn’t make me mopey,” he said of the election during a news conference in the East Room of the White House. “It energizes me because it means that this democracy’s working.”

The president’s sunny outlook stood in sharp contrast to the gloomy electorate. Most voters leaving polling places said they didn’t have much trust in government and felt the nation was on the wrong track. Those feeling pessimistic were more likely to vote for Republican congressional candidates, according to exit polls.

To some Republicans, the gulf between the public’s mood and the president’s outlook suggested a White House that’s out of touch and refusing to recalibrate after getting a clear message from voters. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, wondered whether Obama was “detached or in denial.”

“In word and tone, he refused to take responsibility or even express humility,” Priebus said. “He seemed to suggest the only ideas he’s willing to listen to are his own, old, failed ones.”

Indeed, Obama spoke only broadly about the need to reassess as he heads into his final two years in office. He said it was “premature” to discuss overhauling his staff or shifting positions on policies. He reasserted his pledge to move forward with executive actions on immigration before the end of the year, despite strong opposition from Republicans. And he rejected the notion that his limited relationships with Republican lawmakers, including the likely Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell would hamper potential compromise with the Congress.

Privately, Obama’s advisers acknowledge that Tuesday’s outcome was far worse than what they expected. They say Obama’s upbeat approach reflects a president who has spent the past several weeks growing more comfortable with the prospect of Republicans controlling Congress in his final two years in office and is intrigued by the possible opportunities that could open up as a result.

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AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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