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Obama admits 'mistake' after losing Massachusetts to Republicans

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-01-21

US President Barack Obama has admitted failing to maintain a direct link with the American people, in the wake of the shock loss of the traditionally Democrat state of Massachusetts to the Republicans.

President Barack Obama admitted on Wednesday he had neglected his direct connection to the American people, after a stunning Republican election win shifted the balance of power in Washington.

Obama's aides meanwhile insisted his historic health reform drive - now threatened by the loss of the Democrat supermajority in the Senate - was not dead, after Massachusetts voters handed late liberal icon Edward Kennedy's former Senate seat to Republicans, in a surprising rebuke of Democrats.

As he absorbed the stinging blow from voters, which sent shock waves through the Democratic Party in a key election year, Obama admitted that his need to tackle a flurry of crises had weakened his bond with US voters.

"If there's one thing that I regret this year is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people," Obama told ABC News.

The president said that he had assumed that if he concentrated on making good policy decisions, voters would understand them, but instead they had become consumed by a "feeling of remoteness and detachment" from Washington.

"That I do think is a mistake of mine," Obama said, diagnosing a mood of anger and frustration in the United States over the grinding and lingering impact of the worst recession for decades.

Obama's admission was a far cry from the euphoria of his inauguration a year ago, which drew a crowd of several million people, and the nationwide feeling of hope and change sparked by his 2008 election victory.

The special election upset in liberal Massachusetts on Tuesday was seen by some observers, and Republicans, as a referendum on Obama's first year and his embattled bid to completely overhaul the US health system.

FRANCE 24’s Washington correspondent Ed O’Keefe warned that Obama has to make immediate inroads on domestic issues – especially unemployment – if he is to pull his Democrat Party back from the brink.

“He said in the interview that he feels he has lost touch with the American people and vowed to do a better job in the coming year,” he said.

“But it is very clear that if Obama doesn’t see the unemployment rate drop in the next few months his party is going to face serious challenges in next November’s elections,” he added.

Date created : 2010-01-21

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