CNN

In his first speech since polls across the country shut down Tuesday night, President Joe Biden called out critics who he said doubted his “relentless optimism” about Democrats’ ability to avoid resounding Republican election victories. midterm – even as his presidency is now likely. enter a new period of divided government.

The results, he said at a White House press conference on Wednesday, are a sign that American democracy is intact, despite having been under threat in recent years.

“We had an election yesterday,” Biden said. “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 what we are,” he continued, adding that “as the press and pundits predict a giant red wave”. , This does not happen.

The results were neither the “punch” described by George W. Bush at his own post-midterm press conference in 2006, nor the “bombing” that Barack Obama said Democrats endured in 2010.

Instead, the failure of a so-called “red wave” to materialize on Tuesday night made Biden look confident, reflecting the mood of Democrats, including those in the White House, who are feeling excited and vindicated after an election season where the president’s political fitness was questioned. At the time of Biden’s remarks, CNN was unable to project future House or Senate majorities.

The president conceded that the results are not a ringing endorsement of his approach. Voters, he said, “also made it clear that they were still frustrated. I understand. I understand that the past few years have been very difficult in this country for so many people.

“While any lost seat is painful… Democrats had a great night. And we lost fewer seats in the House of Representatives than in the first midterm election for a Democratic president in 40 years. We had the best midterms for governors since 1986,” Biden remarked.

The president, who turns 80 later this month, also said he was “in no rush” to announce a re-election bid in 2024, reiterating that his timeline remains “early in the year. next”.

“Our intention is to race again. That was our intention, regardless of the outcome of this election,” he told reporters. Still, Biden added, he is “a big acceptor of fate,” calling another run a “family decision.”

“I think everyone wants me to show up, but we’ll discuss it,” he said.

And Biden had a message for those opposed to another presidential bid: “Look at me.”

The president said he would invite leaders of both congressional parties to the White House to discuss how they could work together when he returns from his upcoming trip abroad, adding that he was ready to work with Republicans elected on a number of issues. “The American people have made it clear, I think, that they expect Republicans to be willing to work with me as well,” he added.

Still, Biden has drawn a red line on a number of Republican proposals, saying he would veto legislation he says could worsen inflation, cuts to Social Security and Medicare, as well as any attempt to introduce a national ban on abortion.

Biden said he plans to speak with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who is plotting a run for House speaker — later on Wednesday.

The results seemed more likely to spark 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 Trump-endorsed candidates in coin-toss races have lost or been locked in contests too soon to be called.

For his part, Biden said Wednesday that he does not plan to do anything differently in the second half of his presidential term. Instead, he said, as his agenda items began to take effect, Americans would come to see their benefits.

“They’re just finding out what we’re doing,” the president said. “The more they know about what we do, the more support there is.”

Yet Biden and his team still face the prospect of two tough years in government should Republicans take control of the House. The president’s agenda would likely be greatly reduced without a Democratic majority. And Republicans have promised investigations into the Biden administration and family.

Biden said he believes the American public wants the government to “move forward and get things done for them,” not investigate him, his family or his administration.

“It’s just, almost a comedy,” Biden said of the possible probes. “I can’t control what they’re going to do. All I can do is keep trying to make life better for the American people.

Exit polls also indicated still-simmering dissatisfaction among voters with the country’s economic health. About three-quarters of voters nationwide said the economy was “bad” or “not good,” and the same proportion said inflation had caused them severe or moderate hardship. About two-thirds said gasoline prices were causing them difficulty.

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

For the president, improving the country’s pervasive gloomy mood will be an ongoing challenge despite Democrats beating expectations on Tuesday. Without a majority in the House, its tools to achieve this will be more limited.

Biden spent most of his campaign season focusing on economic issues, including areas where he had taken steps to cut costs. But he drew some criticism, including from some Democrats, for expanding his closing message to include abortion rights and the defense of democracy.

Heading into Tuesday, Biden advisers were ready to defend the tactic and were prepared with historical data showing Democrats faring better this year than in previous midterm cycles, which typically results in losses for the party. of the current president.

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

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

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Biden addressed challenges with two of the country’s biggest foreign adversaries – China and Russia.

Biden said the timing of Russia’s announcement to withdraw from the city of Kherson, Ukraine was “interesting.”

“I find it interesting that they waited until after the election to make this judgment, which we’ve known for some time they were going to do, and that’s proof that they have real problems – the military Russian,” Biden said. He added that it remains to be seen where the withdrawal will lead and “whether or not Ukraine is ready to compromise with Russia.”

Biden also said he was told Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to attend the upcoming G20 summit in Indonesia. He also told reporters he hoped Putin would be more willing to discuss the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is still being held in Russia, now that the election is over.

Biden confirmed expected talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at next week’s G20 summit. Biden said he does not plan to make any “fundamental concessions” and that they will discuss the economy and trade. But he declined to reveal what his message would be on US military support for Taiwan if China moved to the self-governing island.

“I’m going to have this conversation with him,” Biden added, noting that they will lay out “what each of our red lines are.”

The president also told reporters that Twitter owner Elon Musk’s dealings with other countries were worth looking into, but declined to say how that could be done.

“I think Elon Musk’s cooperation and/or technical relationships with other countries are worth considering, whether or not he’s doing anything inappropriate,” Biden said, when asked. whether Musk posed a threat to national security. “But that’s all (I) will say.”