President Obama Takes Responsibility for Democrats' Loss, Saying, 'I've Got to Do a Better Job'

House shifts to Republican control, Dems cling to Senate majority.

November 3, 2010, 6:58 AM

Nov. 3, 2010— -- President Obama today said he would take "direct responsibility" for his party's devastating losses in Tuesday's midterm elections.

"It underscores for me that I've got to do a better job," he told a news conference from the East Room at the White House.

Obama said the election results, which shifted power to the Republicans in the House and left Democrats barely clinging to their majority in the Senate, confirmed what he had heard during his campaign push that took him across the country.

"Over the last two years, we've made progress but clearly too many Americans haven't felt that progress yet. They told us that yesterday," he said. "As president, I take responsibility for that."

Obama confirmed that he had spoken with U.S. Sen. John Boehner, R-Ohio, likely the next speaker of the House, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to both congratulate them on their wins and begin discussing how the two parties can find a compromise on jobs and the economy.

Obama touted some of his presidential accomplishments, including nine months of private sector job growth, but admitted the economy is ?stuck in neutral.?

And, in what he described as a "long night," the president also called speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and newly reelected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to thank them for their service.

"Some election nights are more fun than others. Some are exhilarating, some are humbling," the president said, reminding the country that it's not the politicians who hold the power but "the people we are privileged to serve."

And those people, he said, are frustrated.

"They want jobs to come back faster and they want paychecks to go further," Obama said.

And he called on both parties to bring ideas to the table.

"We must find common ground in order to make progress on some uncommonly difficult challenges," he said. "I do believe there's hope for civility."

Boehner promised today that the new House leadership would begin work right away on the jobs front.

"We recognize this is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work," he said during a Republican leadership news conference before Obama's remarks. "It's not just what the American people are demanding, it's what they expect for us.

"The new majority here in Congress," he vowed, "will be the voice of the American people."

Obama's Policies Widely Blamed for Voter Shift, Cuing Big Wins for the Tea Party

Despite promises of cooperation, both parties seemed today to be eyeing their opponents warily.

"I think this is a time when we need to look at what happened," Reid told "Good Morning America" today. "Anytime you have a new president in a time of urgency as President Obama found himself at the beginning of the last Congress ? there's a lot we have to do. We found ourselves in a big hole from the previous eight years."

It's also a time, he said, to move on.

"We all know that our majority is smaller than what it was, but I hope that the leader of the Republicans ... will understand that we have to work together," Reid said. "Just saying no doesn't do the trick."

Obama's policies, especially on the economy and health care, were widely blamed for voter shift this year.

It was a change of heart that meant big wins for the Tea Party. Propelled in seemingly equal parts by voter dissatisfaction, headline-making statements and powerhouse Sarah Palin, the Tea Party notched wins for Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida.

The Tea Party movement failed in Delaware, where Christine O'Donnell -- one of the most outspoken Tea Party activists in the country -- lost by double digits to Democrat Christopher Coons in Vice President Joe Biden's old Senate seat.

O'Donnell today blamed her loss in part on the mainstream GOP's initial refusal to back her candidacy after she pulled off an upset in the September primary.

"I think the only thing that really would have made a difference is if the Delaware GOP would have unified," she told "Good Morning America" today.

"We spent the good four weeks after the campaign reaching out to many Delaware prominent Republicans," she said. "By the time we got their support we had two weeks left."

The makeup of the Senate and House majorities are already cemented, but several races across the country are still too close to call.

In Palin's home state of Alaska, Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski may win her write-in campaign, which would make her the first senator to successfully mount such a campaign since the 1954.

Murkowski was slated to lose her seat to Palin-backed Tea Party candidate Joe Miller, but an eleventh-hour surge pushed her ahead in the polls. Early this morning she held a majority of the vote with 41 percent over Miller and Democrat Scott Adams.

Recounts are a possibility in the Colorado Senate race where Ken Buck and Michael Bennet are locked in a dead heat and in Washington state, where Democratic Sen. Patty Murray holds a sliver-thin lead over Republican Dino Rossi.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Jake Tapper, Claire Shipman and Neal Karlinsky contributed to this report.