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Obama calls midterm elections 'humbling,' promises to do better

He acknowledged the 'shellacking' Democrats took in the midterm elections. But at his press conference Wednesday, Obama did not back away from policies that got him in trouble with voters.

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Obama identified the debt and deficit as another area where “the American people are absolutely concerned,” and looked ahead to the release Dec. 1 of the recommendations of his bipartisan deficit commission. He said he hoped the members will arrive at a consensus on eliminating programs that don’t work, cutting back on government spending that is inefficient, and streamlining government. But he did not mention entitlements, the growth of which sits at the heart of any discussion on the nation’s looming fiscal crisis.

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One reporter asked Obama to reflect on his personal reactions to the midterms, starting with what it felt like to see so many people he had campaigned for lose – starting with Rep. Tom Perriello (D) of Virginia and Gov. Ted Strickland (D) of Ohio.

“It felt bad,” he said, to laughter. “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.”

Obama was also asked if he would change his leadership style, prompting a soliloquy on, as Obama put it, the “inherent danger in being in the White House and being in the bubble.” He said he would persist in trying to get out and engage with average Americans as much as possible. He was not asked to address head-on the common complaint that he had failed to communicate adequately the content of his initatives – namely, the stimulus and health-care reform – but he suggested that even recent predecessors who were great communicators had suffered similar fates in their first midterms.

“I think it's important to – to point out as well that, you know, a couple of great communicators, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, were standing at this podium two years into their presidency, getting very similar questions because, you know, the economy wasn't working the way it needed to be,” Obama said.

It went without saying that both presidents also won reelection. Obama has all but said he will run again in 2012.

There were some light moments in the hour-long session. One reporter brought up the frequent campaign line about how the Republicans had “driven the car into the ditch” and that the Democrats were working hard to get it out of the ditch. At one point during the campaign, Obama had joked about how the Republicans were just sitting on the sidelines, sipping Slurpees.

How about having House Speaker-to-be John Boehner over for a Slurpee? the reporter suggested.

“They’re delicious drinks,” Obama smiled. “The Slurpee summit. That’s good. I like that.”

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