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Biden takes victory lap, delighting in stronger-than-expected Democratic midterm election results

WASHINGTON — An upbeat President Biden conducted the second press conference of his presidency on Wednesday, celebrating electoral results that, in both state and federal races, yielded better-than-expected outcomes for the Democratic Party.

He opened his remarks by needling “the press and the pundits” who had predicted “a giant red wave” that would give Republicans control of both chambers of Congress. Projections indicate that Democrats could hold on to the Senate, though Republicans will probably control the lower chamber.

Democrats also won gubernatorial races in Oregon and New York, and hold a slim lead in Arizona, all contests in which contentious issues like public safety and immigration were on the ballot.

“I know you were miffed by my obsessive optimism,” Biden said, referring to his repeated assertions in the days leading up to the election that Democratic candidates would exceed downbeat expectations.

The White House approached the midterms by focusing on two issues: last spring’s Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which has allowed some states to fully outlaw or heavily restrict access to abortion, and the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, which the president repeatedly described as evidence that Trumpism poses an existential threat to American democracy.

Biden saw Tuesday’s results as a vindication of his narrowly tailored pitch. American voters “sent a clear and unmistakable message that they want to preserve our democracy and protect the right to choose,” he said, even as he acknowledged concerns about crime and inflation, the two issues that informed many Republican campaigns.

President Biden at the microphone looking exultant.
President Biden at a news conference in the State Dining Room at the White House on Wednesday. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

But he also conceded that a seething discontent continues to underpin much of today’s political discourse in the United States. “They’re still frustrated,” he said of Americans, the majority of whom do not believe that the country is headed in the right direction. “I get it. I understand it’s been a really tough few years in this country for so many people.”

Later, Biden discussed how the personal tragedies he has experienced — a wife and daughter killed in a 1972 car crash, his son Beau’s brain cancer, to which he succumbed in 2015 — have informed his own approach to public service.

"Part of what I think leadership requires, and I hope I meet the standard, is letting people know you understand their problem," he said.

Present in the audience was first lady Jill Biden, who has done some campaigning of her own in recent days. The president said he would make his decision on whether to seek reelection after he had discussed the issue with her and other family members. He predicted this would take place during the holiday season, with a public announcement coming in early 2023.

He also had a blunt message for the majority of Americans who say he should not seek reelection: “Watch me,” he said, suggesting he was prepared to defy concerns about his age and political acumen in 2024, much as he did in 2020, when progressives dismissed him as out of touch with the Democratic vanguard.

“My intention is that I run again,” he said.

Former President Donald Trump is also expected to announce his decision to seek the presidency again. The strong showing by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in his own reelection campaign immediately rendered him a 2024 frontrunner in the eyes of mainstream Republicans looking for a new standard bearer.

Biden seemed as thrilled by the prospect of a Biden-DeSantis primary fight as any cable news producer might be.

“It’d be fun watching them take on each other,” he said.