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A Conciliatory President Confronts a New Washington, New Electoral Map for 2012

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Barack Obama called Tuesday’s results a “shellacking” for his party and pledged to work harder to find common ground with Republicans, even as he acknowledged that 2012 is looming for both sides.

But even bigger implications came as Republicans swept critical gubernatorial races in Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida, all battlegrounds which Obama carried when he ran for president. Plus, the GOP now holds the keys to redistricting.

“Last night definitely suggested that 2008 map is changing,” RNC spokesman Doug Heye said. Two years ago, states such as North Carolina were caught off guard by the strength of Obama’s appeal and his organization, Heye said. In other states, voters have simply shifted away from the Democratic Party, he said.

In Florida, Republicans unseated four incumbent Democrats along with the win in the gubernatorial race. In Ohio, a critical battleground with 20 electoral votes, five House Democrats went down and Gov. Ted Strickland (D) lost re-election.

The president spoke Wednesday with volunteers from his Organizing for America coalition. “It might get tougher in the days ahead,” Obama said on the conference call. “We’ve got to keep on working hard ... sometimes, I know, that’s exhausting.”

But Obama tried to sound encouraging and even signaled confidence he’ll be re-elected, telling supporters that he’ll face more pitfalls “over the next two years and the next six years,” but that he’s proud they will keep standing with him.

Obama maintains that his agenda will include potential areas of compromise. Republicans have insisted they won’t allow any of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts to expire as scheduled on New Year’s Eve, while Obama says they are too costly and should expire for the top 2 percent of taxpayers. Given the GOP’s new sizable majority, this is an area where it’s more likely to end in a handshake than a standoff.

During the news conference, Obama was almost deferential to Boehner, prematurely bestowing the “Speaker-elect” title on the Ohio Republican and saying he can “work together” with probable Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on the issue of limiting budgetary earmarks.

The president also hit on all the points irking voters, saying he wants to curb Washington squabbling, address swelling debt and listen more to everyday people about their worries.

“I won’t pretend that we will be able to bridge every difference or solve every disagreement,” he said. “There’s a reason we have two parties in this country, and both Democrats and Republicans have certain beliefs and certain principles that each feels cannot be compromised.”

Gone was the fiery Obama who stumped for dozens of candidates this year, rebuking of Republican leadership during the Bush administration. The first mention of Bush came from a reporter, and Obama did not dwell on the economic mess he’d inherited.

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