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Obama backlash -

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Republicans have gained momentum following yesterday's mid-term elections in the US, winning
control of the House of Representatives. The outcome is seen largely as a victory for the Tea
Party.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: US President Barack Obama says he understands the dramatic judgement
passed by the voters at yesterday's mid-term elections in America.

As the polls predicted, Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in Congress on a
wave of voter discontent over the economy and a perception that the President was out of touch.

The Republican gains are seen above all else as a victory for the Tea Party movement and it now
seems likely that American politics will become even more polarised than it has been already this
year.

North America correspondent Michael Brissenden reports from Washington.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, REPORTER: In America these days, they talk about politics moving in waves, and
last night, the wave came in a tannin-stained surge of anger and frustration.

RAND PAUL, SENATOR-ELECT KENTUCKY: But tonight, there's a Tea Party tidal wave and we're sending a
message to 'em.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Across the country candidates backed by the nascent Tea Party movement helped
deliver Republicans the biggest margin for any party in the House of Representatives in more than
50 years.

JOHN BOEHNER, REPUBLICAN HOUSE LEADER: We are humbled by the trust that the American people have
placed in us and we recognise this is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the
people's priorities - creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming the way Congress does its
business.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And Tea Party exuberance aside, humble seems to be the default emotion for all
the main party leaders.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Some election nights are more fun than others. Some are exhilarating.
Some are humbling. But every election, regardless of who wins and who loses, is a reminder that in
our democracy, power rests not with those of us in elected office, but with the people we have the
privilege to serve.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: In a mid-term congressional election, the President isn't on the ballot, but
inevitably, it becomes a referendum on the performance of the occupant of the Oval Office. And with
unemployment still hovering at around 10 per cent, a depressed real estate market and a ballooning
deficit, this President says he understands why the judgment may have been harsh.

BARACK OBAMA: There is no doubt that people's number one concern is the economy. And what they were
expressing great frustration about is the fact that we haven't made enough progress on the economy.
We've stabilised the economy, we've got job growth in the private sectors. But people all across
America aren't feeling that progress.

COMMENTATOR: He was a man who was wounded out there today. Chastened, tired, almost listless at
times.

COMMENTATOR II: Meghan, he blew the first year and a half of his presidency focused elsewhere.

COMMENTATOR III: When you get your butt kicked, you know what? You got your butt kicked.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The pundits have passed their verdicts and the political ground has shifted,
but Barack Obama's overall defence of his policy settings hasn't, the stimulus and the bailouts he
maintains were necessary to rescue an economy in freefall.

Still, a political hammering like this is enough to give anyone pause for reflection.

BARACK OBAMA: I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I
did last night. Um, you know, I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons. But, you know,
I mean, I think it's important to point out as well that, you know, a couple of great
communicators, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, were standing at this podium two years into their
presidency getting very similar questions.

JOHN FORTIER, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The Clinton experience tells us that the first few
months for Barack Obama will not be good. It's very tough to take a loss of this size. But he'll
have to find a way to explain that he understood the election, but also a way to fight back against
Republicans.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Whether they lean to the left or the right, political analysts and commentators
here all seem to agree that the Clinton example is particularly instructive. Like him, the second
half of Barack Obama's term will look very different from the first.

JOHN FORTIER: You did see that. You saw that with President Clinton when he had a similar loss in
1994. The big ideas of the first two years gave way to some very small ideas. To the extent that he
wants to work with Republicans, it's gonna have to be on some relatively minor issues.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Like Bill Clinton in 1994, Barack Obama will be looking to turn the inevitable
confrontation with Congress to his political advantage. Back then, Republicans used their majority
to literally shut down the Government, and Democrats are hoping that the new Tea Party insurgents
will force the Republicans to overreach again.

And legislative gridlock is now all but certain. The President talks of compromise, but says he's
prepared to defend the integrity of contentious policy positions like healthcare and the repeal of
the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. But Republicans say the message from the people is clear.

MITCH MCCONNELL, REPUBLICAN SENATE LEADER: I think what the American people were saying yesterday
is that they appreciated us saying no to the things that the American people indicated they were
not in favour of. So I think the group that should hopefully get the message out of yesterday's
elections is our friends on the other side of the aisle.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And the Tea Party has already put establishment Republicans on notice that they
won't be able to ignore their message either.

Marco Rubio, the new Republican senator from Florida, is one of those Tea Party successes and
compromise is not part of his political make up.

MARCO RUBIO, SENATOR-ELECT, FLORIDA: It would be a tremendous mistake to assume that last night was
some sort of embrace of the Republican Party and that we are entering a Republican era. Last night
was nothing more than a second chance to be the party that we claim to be and want to be. And my
warning is that if we fail to do that, two years from now we will be on the other end of this
pendulum again.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: At his post-election press conference, Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, made a
point of answering questions in both English and Spanish. Capturing the growing Latino vote is
increasingly important for the major parties here and Rubio is now being talked about as a
potential Republican leader.

But the Tea Party's success has also given Sarah Palin's ambitions a considerable boost.

SARAH PALIN, FMR VICE PRESIDENTAL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: That's an earthquake. It is. It's a huge
message sent. It is a shake up.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: During the campaign, Sarah Palin endorsed more than 60 Tea Party-backed
candidates and two thirds of them went on to win.

It might seem like a long way off yet, but the campaigning and positioning for 2012 is now well
underway.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Michael Brissenden reporting from Washington.