With Republicans expected to win control of the House in Tuesday's election, President Obama scheduled a press conference for Wednesday in what was expected to amount to a mid-course correction to deal with the power shift on Capitol Hill.
Obama is expected to try to reach out to Republicans, who have campaigned against his economic stimulus plan, healthcare overhaul and other policies. But if the GOP gains seats in the House and Senate, as expected, heavy partisan conflict is anticipated, especially as the parties gear up for the 2012 reelection campaign.
"This election's going to be a referendum on Obama's policies," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Assn., said on MSNBC on Tuesday. "What is the president's response going to be?"
Citing the GOP's pledge to cut spending aggressively, Barbour added: "Hopefully, the president is going to be willing to come forward and say, 'I recognize we have to do that; let's work together.' "
But Democrats question Republicans' sincerity, noting Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky recently said that his top priority was to make "Obama ... a one-term president."
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, offered his own advice to the White House. "We've got to use the president more. He's a great communicator," he told MSNBC. "If tonight turns out to be better than expected for Democrats, it's because the president got energized in the last month."
If Republicans win control of the House, Obama will still be setting the agenda, Barbour said. "The Republicans are not going to be running the government, but they will have much more of a say than we've had for these two years," he said on MSNBC.
But signaling the conflict that awaits the administration and the new Congress, Barbour said Republicans were going to try to repeal the healthcare reform bill. "If they can't repeal it, they're going to try to change it so that you wouldn't recognize it," he said on NBC's "Today." "They're going to be faithful to what the voters vote for tonight."
Fellow Republican Tommy Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor, however, told CNBC: "When it's all said and done, you're not going to be able to repeal healthcare because President Obama is not going to sign it, and they don't have enough votes to override a veto. So why push a cart uphill when you know it's not going to be able to get to the top?"