Biden: The ‘Red Wave’ didn’t happen

President Joe Biden is addressing reporters Wednesday after appearing to withstand historical and political headwinds in the midterm elections, staving off resounding Republican wins even as his presidency is now likely entering a new period of divided government.

The results, he said, are a sign US democracy is intact, despite coming under threat over the past several years.

“We had an election yesterday,” Biden said during a post-Election Day news conference. “And it was a good day, I think, for democracy.”

“Our democracy has been tested in recent years, but with their votes, the American people have spoken and proven once again that democracy is who we are,” he said, adding that “while the press and the pundits are predicting a giant red wave , it didn’t happen.”

“I know you were somewhat miffed by my incessant optimism,” Biden told reporters in the room, “but I felt good during the whole process.”

The results were neither the “thumping” George W. Bush described during his own post-midterms press conference in 2006 nor the “shellacking” Barack Obama said Democrats endured in 2010.

Instead, the failure of a so-called “red wave” to materialize Tuesday night had Democrats, including those inside the White House, feeling enthused and vindicated following an election season where Biden’s political aptitude was questioned.

“While any seat lost is painful… Democrats had a strong night. And we lost fewer seats in the House of Representatives than any Democratic president’s first midterm election in the last 40 years,” Biden remarked.

“We have defied historical trends,” a senior Biden adviser told CNN. β€œIt’s pretty extraordinary if you think about it.”

The results appeared more likely to prompt soul-searching among Republicans than Democrats, as former President Donald Trump teases an imminent announcement that he is running for the White House again. Many of the candidates Trump endorsed in toss-up races lost or were locked in contests that were too early to call.

Still, Biden and his team still face the prospect of a difficult two years of governing should Republicans seize control of the House of Representatives. The President’s agenda would likely be sharply curtailed without a Democratic majority. And Republicans have promised investigations into Biden’s administration and family.

Exit polls also indicated still-simmering dissatisfaction among voters at the country’s economic health. Around three-quarters of voters nationally said the economy is “poor” or “not good,” and the same share said that inflation has caused them severe or moderate hardship. About two-thirds said that gas prices have been causing them hardship.

Voters have a dour view about the way things are going in the country in general, with more than 7 in 10 saying they are “dissatisfied” or “angry.”

For the president, improving the country’s pervasive dark mood will be an ongoing challenge despite Democrats outperforming expectations Tuesday. Without a majority in the House, his tools to accomplish that will be more limited.

Biden spent most of his campaign season focused on economic issues, including areas he’d taken action to reduce costs. But he drew some criticism, including from some Democrats, for expanding his closing message to include abortion rights and a defense of democracy.

Heading into Tuesday, Biden advisers were prepared to defend the tactic and were prepared with historical data showing Democrats doing better this year than in previous midterm cycles, which typically result in losses for the sitting president’s party.

Ultimately, however, Biden is likely to avoid the finger-pointing and second-guessing. Even with the House losses, this year’s results are among the best for the party in power in recent memory.

By comparison, Democrats lost 54 seats in 1994, when President Bill Clinton was in office. And Obama’s first midterm election saw his party lose 63 seats.

Whether the results alter Biden’s thinking about running for a second term also remains to be seen. The president has said he intends to run for reelection, and members of his team have begun early preparations ahead of a final decision.

But a decision isn’t likely to come until next year after he has discussed the matter with his family over the holidays.

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