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White House extends olive branch to House

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(CNN) -- With the House squarely in Democratic hands and the possibility of a Senate power shift still looming, President Bush made two back-to-back phone calls Wednesday morning -- one of condolence to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and one of congratulation to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Bush thanked outgoing Speaker Hastert for his leadership and told him that "while we came up short, we're committed to working with Democrats to get things done for the country," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

Bush and Pelosi agreed they would work together in the final two years of Bush's administration, Perino said. (Watch what Pelosi said about her plans for change -- 4:35)

The president has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m.

Bush will deliver the message that "the problems we faced this morning are the same problems we'll face tomorrow: winning the war in Iraq, keeping the economy together, working on renewing No Child Left Behind," said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

Though ballots were still being counted in some races Wednesday morning, CNN projects that Democrats will hold a 234-201 advantage in the House.

In the Senate, all but two races are decided, and the outcomes in the Montana and Virginia contests will determine who controls the Senate. As of Wednesday morning, the split was 49-49. (Watch how national, not local, issues were weighing on voters' minds -- 2:19 Video)

It would appear that in the wake of a Democratic landslide in the House, the White House is looking to make nice with Pelosi and her counterparts after tussling with them on a variety of issues for six years.

"[Pelosi] talked about energy independence, and we want to work on comprehensive immigration reform, some things we can get some action on," Snow said. "It will be interesting politically, a new opportunity to get things done. We're going to get a lot done. On energy, education -- those are clearly things we can work on."

The president wants to work with the new House leaders, said Snow, and was encouraged by several Democrats' calls "to get rid of partisanship."

"Bush wants to go back to the Texas model. He's always reached out. He's been trying over the last couple of years with limited success," Snow said.

But despite the new House leaders, White House officials are not writing off the chamber as a bastion of liberalism, Snow said, adding that Bush believes the chamber will actually mirror his thinking on issues -- and perhaps even reject Pelosi's on occasion.

"Three dozen blue dogs have voted against her on various issues," Snow said, using a nickname for conservative Democrats. "And it's the conservative Democrats who made real gains."

The gains by conservative and moderate Democrats, which some analysts say will force the party to shift more toward center, is encouraging to Bush. The president believes they will support him in his fight for tax cuts, which Snow said the president has vowed not to give up.

Pelosi has said she wants to "revisit the tax cuts at the high end in order to give tax cuts to the middle class."

Snow conceded that Bush understands it will be "harder to move some bills," but that won't stop the president from continuing to lobby for Social Security reform.

And though there is little agreement between the White House and Pelosi on the Iraq war, Snow said Bush hopes the conditions in Iraq will improve to the point that both sides can reach more common ground. Unlike many of her party faithful, Pelosi voted against authorizing the war in Iraq.

"Winning the war on terror is important to all of us. A lot of things can happen in a couple of months," Snow said. "Everyone says they want victory. The Democrats are now stakeholders in that, in the future, to finish the job in Iraq."

The new congressional balance of power may prompt some changes in the Bush administration. Though Snow said "some people who'd been with the administration for a long time might be ready to step down," he would not elaborate on whom that might include.

In his Wednesday morning calls, the president contacted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Majority Leader John Boehner, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Dick Durbin and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel.

There was "a strong spirit of goodwill in the conversations," Perino said, adding that Bush and the new leadership "will start strategizing about how they will get things done in the next Congress."

Hoyer and Pelosi were invited to have lunch with the president Thursday, Perino said.

On Tuesday, Bush spent much of the evening in his personal study watching election results on Fox News as his chief political strategist, Karl Rove, darted in between the study and family room where several televisions were on different channels, Snow said.

Rove, along with chief of staff Josh Bolten and counselor Dan Bartlett, were working on their BlackBerrys and phones throughout the night and the first lady occasionally popped in, Snow said. The president was constantly asking Rove, "What's it look like? How many seats?" Snow said.

When Bush went to bed, the Democrats had clinched the House, but the president was still "having high hopes in the Senate," Snow said.

The two outstanding races were still too close to call as of Wednesday morning. In Montana, state Senate President Jon Tester, a Democrat, was barely leading three-term incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns.

In Virginia, former Navy Secretary James Webb, a Democrat, was locked in a tight race with Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen. The race was clearly headed for a recount, Snow said.

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White House Press Secretary Tony Snow says President Bush believes the new House will mirror his thinking on some issues.

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