President Joe Biden on Wednesday celebrated midterm election results that he said defied expectations for the Democratic Party, arguing that the country is on the “right path” under his leadership and that his policy agenda is delivering results.
Biden said at the White House that voters “sent a clear and unmistakable message” about issues such as democracy and abortion rights but were also “clear that they are still frustrated” when it comes to the economy and inflation.
While it remains unclear whether Democrats will keep control of Congress, Biden and his party have avoided the “red wave” that some strategists predicted would be fueled by inflation and economic woes.
Still, Biden acknowledged that Republicans could walk away from the midterms with a narrow majority in the House, and he vowed to work across the aisle to continue pushing his agenda forward.
Biden spoke with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., by phone on Wednesday evening. Asked by reporters how the call went, McCarthy said it was "good."
At the White House news conference, Biden said he plans to invite leadership from both parties to meet at the White House after he returns next week from the meeting of the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations in Indonesia.
“The American people made it clear: They don’t want every day going forward to be a constant political battle,” Biden said. “The future of America is too promising, too promising to be trapped in an endless political warfare.”
Despite Biden’s plans to reach across the aisle, he made it clear that he would reject any Republican-led efforts to cut Social Security or pass a nationwide abortion ban, telling reporters: “I have a pen that can veto.”
Biden's midterm losses are likely to tally far fewer than President Barack Obama suffered in 2010 or President Donald Trump in 2018.
The results give validation to a White House that for weeks has been making the case that Biden’s policies — from federal student debt relief to infrastructure investments — were widely popular with voters and that its strategy of touting those accomplishments would pay off. A Biden adviser said there was a feeling of vindication in the West Wing on Wednesday morning, particularly with the losses of some Trump-backed candidates who had continued to push falsehoods about who won the 2020 election.
“It was a good day for democracy and, I think, a good day for America,” Biden said.
Had the election gone how prognosticators predicted, Biden would likely have been fielding criticism about his ability to lead the party, and Trump would have been boasting about victories ahead of an expected launch of a re-election bid next week.
But instead, it's Biden's camp that is feeling confident.
Biden said Wednesday that he intends to run for re-election but that he won’t make a final decision until early next year, after he talks it over with his family.
Even though Democrats’ worst-case election scenario didn’t pan out, Biden could still face a difficult two years if Republicans are able to take control, even by a thin margin, of either the House or the Senate, which would enable them to block Democrats’ legislative efforts. Republicans have indicated that if they take control of the House, they will investigate a host of topics, from the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter Biden to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
For many voters, Biden appeared to play little role in their decisions. According to the NBC News Exit Poll, nearly half of voters said Biden wasn’t a factor in their votes for the House. That compares to 2018, when only a third of voters said Trump wasn’t a factor in their House votes.
There were other warning signs for Biden.
Two-thirds of voters said they didn’t want him to run for re-election, with three-quarters of independent midterm voters saying they don’t want him to run again and 66% of midterms voters under age 30 saying the same, according to exit polls.
But the win did seem to give him a bit more support among members of his party.
"If there was a rematch, based on the results we saw last night, I don't think there's any doubt that he would beat Donald Trump again," Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said on MSNBC.
Biden’s approval rating among voters was 41%, just slightly above Trump’s, at 39%.
Shannon Pettypiece reported from Milwaukee. Monica Alba and Lauren Egan reported from Washington.