Reporting from Washington — With his party set to lose one, if not both houses of Congress Tuesday, President Obama used his weekly address to look beyond the midterm elections, saying he hopes to work with Republicans to address the nation's ongoing economic challenges.
But in a parting political shot, he signaled out Republican leadership who he said have promised nothing but more "heated rhetoric."
"It comes down to a simple choice," he said. "We can spend the next two years arguing with one another, trapped in stale debates, mired in gridlock, unable to make progress. … Or we can do what the American people are demanding that we do. We can move forward."
The man who would likely become speaker of the House if Republicans win the majority, Ohio Rep. John A. Boehner, countered that it was Republicans who would bring about the "new way forward in Washington" that Americans seek.
"We've tried it President Obama's way. We've tried it Washington's way. It hasn't worked," Boehner said. "It's time to put the people back in charge."
The dueling addresses were a starting gun to the final 72 hours before polls open across the country Tuesday, with not only congressional seats but more than three dozen governorships and local offices up for grabs.
Elections handicappers now uniformly predict that Republicans are set to gain enough seats in the House to recapture the chamber after four years of Democratic control. A number of Senate races that could tip the balance there are still considered too close to call.
Though he and his party have maintained they will hold Congress, Obama's address acknowledged the reality that Republicans will have a stronger voice even if they fall short.
"Whatever the outcome on Tuesday, we need to come together to help put people who are still looking for jobs back to work," he said. "There are some practical steps we can take right away … not Democratic or Republican ideas, but proposals that have traditionally been supported by both parties."
He said that elected officials have a responsibility to "seek out common ground," but that recent comments from both Boehner and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate GOP's leader, were "troubling." He referred to McConnell's quote to a Washington magazine that his top goal after November was to ensure a Republican would be elected president in 2012.
"I know that we're in the final days of a campaign," Obama said. "But when the ballots are cast and the voting is done, we need to put this kind of partisanship aside."
Boehner's address focused largely on the issues that have his party on the cusp of major victories, particularly spending and deficits. He offered the GOP "pledge to America" as Republicans' "governing agenda built by listening to the people."
"This spending spree threatens our children's future. It's also hurting our economy," he said.
The president is spending the weekend on the campaign trail, with stops Saturday in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Illinois, and a closing rally in Ohio on Sunday.