Voters who said Obama was a factor in their decisions Tuesday were more likely to say they opposed him than supported him. About 4 in 10 voters overall said their vote was an expression of opposition to Obama, roughly the same number said he was not a factor in their vote and one-quarter said their vote was in support of the president.
The yearlong midterm election campaign, vitriolic and aggressive in spirit, played out on an unusually wide battleground stretching from Alaska to Maine and covering nearly every state in between. In the final weeks of the race, nearly 100 congressional districts became competitive, along with a large batch of Senate and governors' races, all of which were fueled by a major influx of cash from outside groups.
The political environment left almost no Democratic senator or representative, regardless of seniority or rank, free of a forceful challenge by Republicans. The Democratic strategy was primarily rooted in defense, largely because the party had made such gains in the past two election cycles that Republicans found vast opportunities.
The Republican winds began blowing back in January when Democrats lost the seat long held by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, with the victory of Scott Brown serving as a motivating force for the budding Tea Party movement and a burst of inspiration for Republican candidates to step forward and challenge Democrats everywhere.
On Tuesday, the president did not leave the grounds of the White House, taking a respite from days of campaigning, so he could meet with a circle of top advisers to plot a way forward for his administration and his own looming re-election campaign. The White House said Obama would hold a news conference Wednesday to address the governing challenges that await the new Congress.
"My hope is that I can cooperate with Republicans," Obama said in a radio interview Tuesday. "But obviously, the kinds of compromises that will be made depends on what Capitol Hill looks like — who's in charge."
But even as the president was poised to offer a fresh commitment to bipartisanship, he spent the final hours of the midterm campaign trying to persuade Democrats in key states to take time to vote. From the Oval Office, Obama conducted one radio interview after another, urging black voters in particular to help preserve the party's majority and his agenda.
"How well I'm able to move my agenda forward over the next couple of years is going to depend on folks back home having my back," Obama said in an interview with Chicago radio station WGCI, in which he made a special appeal for voters to keep his former Senate seat in Democratic hands.
There was little Democratic terrain that seemed immune to Republican encroachment, with many of the most competitive races being waged in states that Obama carried strongly only two years ago. From the president's home state of Illinois to neighboring Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio — all places that were kind to the Democratic ticket in 2008 — Republicans worked aggressively to find new opportunities.
Two years after a historic presidential election, in which Democrats, independents and even Republicans voted on a pledge to change Washington, the coalition that carried Obama to the White House was showing significant signs of fraying. Throughout the midterm elections, the Democratic Party tried to recreate the spirit and enthusiasm of the last presidential campaign but was met with a sense of frustration and anxiety from voters that their lives had not gotten better.
For all the drama surrounding the final day of the midterm campaign, more than 19 million Americans had voted before Tuesday, a trend that has grown with each election cycle over the past decade, as 32 states now offer a way for voters to practice democracy in far more convenient ways than simply waiting in line on Election Day.
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