Obama, GOP leaders face the press for election post-mortems

In back-to-back press conferences Wednesday, President Obama and victorious Republicans try to win the spin battle on the day after Election 2010. Obama has the harder task.

Cliff Owen/AP
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell addresses an election night gathering in Washington on Nov. 2. GOP leaders will meet the press on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., slated to “discuss Republicans’ agenda for creating jobs, cutting spending, and reforming Congress.”

In dueling press conferences in Washington Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans will try to win the spin battle on the day after Election 2010.

First off will be Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, presumptive House Speaker-to-be John Boehner, and Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour, who meet the press at 11:30 a.m., are slated to “discuss Republicans’ agenda for creating jobs, cutting spending, and reforming Congress,” according to a statement from their spokespeople.

At 1 p.m., President Obama will take the podium in the White House East Room. In a note sent to reporters Tuesday morning, the White House said only that the president “will convene a news conference.” It will be the first televised appearance by Mr. Obama or his top advisers since election results became clear Tuesday evening.

On election night, Politico.com posted a story headlined “At the WH, spin doctors hide,” which noted that “Press secretary Robert Gibbs and senior advisers Valerie Jarrett, Melody Barnes, and David Axelrod were all absent from network television” on Tuesday evening.

Their absence from the airwaves likely was a result of two factors – the generally grim news for Democrats in the election results, and a desire not to step on the president’s message at the press conference Wednesday afternoon.

In the battle of the press conferences, Obama has the tougher assignment. Republican leaders can bask in their election night gains. Republicans picked up at least 60 seats in the House and at least six in the Senate, and posted a net gain of at least seven governorships. A key question they face is how GOP congressional leaders can balance the desires of their new tea party members with the wishes of independent voters, who will be crucial in the 2012 elections.

The stakes are higher for Obama’s press conference performance. He will have to explain voters’ rejection of his party and his programs, define a path forward for his administration that takes account of voters’ dissatisfaction, and spell out a plan to deal with divided government.

After the president does the heavy lifting, Senate Democratic leaders will have their say during a 2 p.m. press conference. Participants are expected to include Senate majority leader Harry Reid, assistant Senate majority leader Richard Durbin, Democratic Conference vice chairman Charles Schumer, and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Robert Menendez. The announced topic: "The path forward for America following the 2010 midterm elections.”

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