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Video: After post-election pause, fighting words from GOP

  1. Transcript of: After post-election pause, fighting words from GOP

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we return to politics. No putting it off any longer. Just two days after the election that ushered in sweeping change in Washington , and tonight, the Senate 's top Republican made it clear to President Obama just where he stands. Our chief White House corespondent Chuck Todd with us tonight with that story. Hey, Chuck. Good evening.

    CHUCK TODD reporting: Well, good evening, Brian . That's right , that post election detente, well, it lasted all of about 24 hours, as today the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear to the White House his focus is on 2012 .

    President BARACK OBAMA: Things are a little less ideological...

    TODD: President Obama used his first post- midterm election Cabinet meeting to talk about lessons from his party's Tuesday drubbing.

    Pres. OBAMA: And they want a change of tone here in Washington , where the two parties are coming together and focusing on the people's business as opposed to us scoring political points.

    TODD: He said he's serious about developing a, quote, "better working relationship with the Republican congressional leadership." But two hours later, across town at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation , Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke of a different mandate.

    Senator MITCH McCONNELL: If our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all of those things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things.

    TODD: The two messages from President Obama and McConnell today couldn't have been more different.

    Sen. McCONNELL: If the administration wants cooperation, it will have to begin to move in our direction.

    Pres. OBAMA: What we need to do is make sure that everybody's pulling together, Democrats and Republicans and independents.

    TODD: McConnell also used his speech to shore up his standing with tea party conservatives, like South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint . The two senators were on opposite sides in quite a few Republican Senate primaries during the campaign, including in McConnell 's home state of Kentucky , where the tea party pick Rand Paul defeated McConnell 's candidate. In an interview with the National Journal , DeMint said he was satisfied with McConnell and his team for now, but did hint that he won't be a bystander. He said, "Any leadership changes would be a year or two down the road, I suspect. We just need to change our focus from the appropriations process to one of creating national policy."

    Mr. RON FOURNIER (National Journal): The leaders in the House and the Senate , the incoming leaders in the House and the Senate , the Republican leaders, everything they do they got to do while they're looking over their shoulder, their right shoulder, at the tea party movement.

    TODD: Now the president officially invited the Speaker-to-be John Boehner , Mitch McConnell , plus the Democratic leadership over to the White House for more than just a photo-op. He said he's hoping to have dinner with them right after he comes back from Asia . And quickly, Brian , a little election news, overtime that is. In the state of Illinois , the president's home state, he went one for two. Pat Quinn , the appointed governor who got it. He now won a full term on his own over Republican Bill Brady , very narrowly, but he won. A little feather in the cap for the president after what's been a tough election week.

    WILLIAMS: And we still wait for two big Senate races. Chuck Todd at the White House tonight. Chuck , thanks.

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