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Bush takes blame for GOP election losses

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday took responsibility for his party's losses on Election Night and said he is willing to work with congressional Democrats on the major issues during the last two years of his presidency.

"I'm obviously disappointed with the outcome of the election and, as the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the responsibility," Bush said during a East Room news conference at the White House.

"I told my party's leaders that it is now our duty to put the elections behind us and work together with the Democrats and independents on the great issues facing this country." (Read a transcript of Bush's comments)

On Tuesday, Democrats picked up at least 28 seats in the House of Representatives, giving them control of the chamber for the first time since the Republican sweep in the 1994 midterm elections. (Full story)

Bush said he had called Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become the first female speaker of the House when the new Congress begins in January, and the Senate's Democratic leader, Harry Reid, and congratulated them on their success Tuesday night. (Pelosi ready to take House helm)

On Tuesday, the Democrats picked up five seats in the Senate. The closeness of a Senate race in Virginia puts the ultimate control of the the chamber in doubt. (Full story)

Citing his experience as governor of Texas, the president said he was confident he could work with the Democratic leadership to put aside differences and come up with a bipartisan way to address the country's problems. Bush said he would invite the Democratic leaders to the White House soon.

"The message yesterday was clear: The American people want their leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences, conduct ourselves in an ethical manner and work together to address the challenges facing our nation," Bush said.

The president mentioned Social Security and Medicare reform, immigration, the minimum wage and U.S. dependence on foreign oil as among the issues he thought he could make progress on with congressional Democrats.

Earlier Wednesday, Pelosi also said she intends to work with the president.

"I told him what I said last night, that I looked forward to working in a bipartisan way with him, that the success of the president is always good for the country and I hoped that we could work together for the American people," the California lawmaker said.

Bush said he could work with the Democratic leadership despite the harsh language used during the campaigns on both sides.

"This isn't my first rodeo. In other words, this is not the first time I've been in a campaign where people have expressed themselves in different kinds of ways," he said. "But I have learned that, you know, if you focus on the big picture -- which in this case is our nation -- and issues we need to work together on, you can get stuff done."

At the news conference, Bush also announced that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is resigning and will be replaced by former CIA Director Bob Gates. Bush said the decision to replace Rumsfeld was made before the elections. (Full story)

"The reason why [Rumsfeld didn't resign before Tuesday] is I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign," Bush said.

The president acknowledged that dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq was a major factor in his party's loses.

"There were different factors that determined the outcome of different races, but no question, Iraq was on people's minds," Bush said. "And, as you have just learned, I am making a change at the secretary of defense to bring a fresh perspective as to how to achieve something I think most Americans want, which is a victory. "


President Bush said Wednesday he will invite Democratic leaders to the White House soon for talks.



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