By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 12:42 PM
President Obama, already looking past what might be a grim night, is planning to hold a news conference Wednesday at 1 p.m. to discuss the 2010 election results, White House officials announced.
That Obama would schedule an appearance is no surprise. He is going to lie low Tuesday night, as presidents typically do during midterms, even when they are victorious. But he cannot delay commenting on the outcome much beyond that if he hopes to regain control of the message and try to deal with expected Republican gains on his own terms.
If history is any guide, he will make pronouncements with lasting significance: Bush, after seeing Republican gains in 2002, used his first post-midterm news conference to call on both parties to bring a "spirit of bipartisan cooperation to the urgent task of protecting our country from the ongoing threat of terrorist attack," namely disarming Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
Clinton, at the same moment in 1994, forecast his successful effort to portray the new Republican majority as extreme, calling on the opposition leaders to "to join me in the center of the public debate, where the best ideas for the next generation of American progress must come."
Obama has given few clues about his approach to managing either a diminished or disappeared majority. It is not even clear - with the fates of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) in doubt - who will be the face of the Democratic party as of Friday, when Obama leaves town for an extended trip to Asia.
But upon his return, he has immediate goals, including addressing the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts and a report from his deficit commission due out at the beginning of December, which administration officials hope to act on swiftly.
Meanwhile, Obama is passing the time quietly at the White House. He conducted several radio interviews being aired around the country Tuesday. Late in the afternoon, he will meet with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, officials said.