President Obama made more than 60 phone calls last night to Democrats up for reelection. As fate would have it, most of those calls were to those who lost, including outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who lost her majority.
As the night went on, the president and his aides watched candidates for whom they held out hope drown in a crimson tide.
Virginia Democrats Rick Boucher and Tom Perriello – gone. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland – gone. Three presidential visits to Pennsylvania were not enough to save Rep. Joe Sestak's Senate campaign or five House Democrats. Another five Ohio House Democrats fell as well.
President Obama's own senate seat was won by Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. Newly elected swing state governors in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Michigan will be working to help the president's 2012 opponent.
"Bloodbath," emailed one top Democrat as election returns made it clear that White House hopes to contain the damage to a 50-seat net Republican gain were for naught.
President Obama is said to be introspective about the returns, though the loss of the House was not a surprise. He will be "conciliatory" at a 1 pm ET press conference, a senior White House official told ABC News, and will talk about working with Speaker-designate John Boehner, R-Ohio, on the economy, debt, and education reform.
But the president is said to not view the Republican wave as a personal rebuke. Rather, he sees it as an indication of continued economic anxiety and an admonition for both parties to work together. Some of the "no compromise" rhetoric Republicans are using is a misreading of the public mood, a senior White House official said.
The official seemed to indicate that the president may be willing to negotiate on the issue of allowing some extention of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, though not a permanent extension.
In public and private, Mr. Obama has expressed skepticism of the genuineness of House Republicans' desire to work in a bipartisan way, but he will proceed in a "good faith" way, an official said.
- Jake Tapper