Congress could slam the brakes on Barack Obama’s reform plans after the Republicans took the House of Representatives and the Democrats kept a slender majority in the Senate.
The midterm message from voters echoes words once spoken by former president Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy, stupid?”
One voter in New York was unimpressed with either party: “I think the rhetoric around this election has been absolutely awful. No one has focused on the issues, and we need to focus on the issues. We need to focus on growing the economy and jobs, and that’s not being done by either party at this point.”
America’s unemployment rate has been stuck at around nine per cent since the country emerged from recession in June 2009.
Observers say it means Obama will have to be more consensual in his approach to policy, and reach out to Republican moderates to get legislation through.
The midterm results mean America is likely to see a very different Obama presidency over the next two years. With the Grand Old Party in a position to block and delay, it is unlikely the president will be unveiling any more landmark reforms before 2012.
Some Republicans promised during the midterm campaign that they would do their utmost to unpick Obama’s changes to the healthcare system, which now requires citizens to purchase health insurance.
One flagship policy under threat is Obama’s hopes for sweeping climate change legislation. Republicans oppose weaning the US off oil by putting a price on carbon emissions, branding it as an energy tax. New technologies for greener energy sources, such as wind and solar power, would be likely to require subsidies. That is unlikely to go down well with middle America, which has cast its vote for less government spending, not more.