• With: Dan Henninger, Jason Riley, James Freeman, Kim Strassel

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," November 8, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Democrats take a drubbing in the midterm elections but is President Obama set to double down on past policies or is he ready to work with the new Republican majority?

    Plus, GOP governors have a very good night while their blue-state counterparts suffer some big setbacks. We'll look at the secret to their success.

    And breaking through the blue wall. Tuesday's vote exposes some cracks in the Democratic coalition. We'll tell you what it could mean for 2016.


    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Every election is a moment for reflection. And I think that everybody in this White House is going to look and say, all right, what do we need to do differently? But the principles that we're fighting for, the things that motivate me every single day and motivate my staff everyday, those things aren't going to change.


    GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    That was President Obama one day after his party took a drubbing in the midterm elections with Republicans capturing control of the Senate for first time in eight years and winning the largest majority in the House in generations. Both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell signaled this week they are open to working with President Obama in the next Congress. But should they? And is the president ready and willing to work with them?

    Let's ask "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

    So, Dan, let's start with you. Big Republican sweep, obviously. But what's the meaning of this election, the broad brush? Is this is more a repudiation of President Obama or was this really maybe an endorsement of potential Republican governance?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST, DEPUTY EDITOR: I don't -- the Republicans have been given a big opportunity here. But I think on the other side, Paul, it's important to make an important distinction. We should not -- however much of a presence Barack Obama has had in the life of the country in the last six years, this is not simply a repudiation of Barack Obama. This is a repudiation of the modern Democratic Party and Democratic idea of governance, which is, indeed, large government and spending, not only in Washington, but these state races were so important. States like Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland, these are Democratic states and those voters there repudiated the idea that spending public programs would make their life better. It has failed. And it has been kind of a test case over the last five years. Now the -- I think that's really important. Now the Republicans have their own chance.

    GIGOT: So, Jason, how do you read the president's body language there --


    -- and genuine rhetoric that he offered? Do you think he -- it absorbed and internalized, the point Dan made, or not?

    JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: His body language doesn't suggest that he has, Paul. But here's what's different. During his second term, George W. Bush's approval rating averaged 37 percent.

    GIGOT: Not good.


    RILEY: Obama does not want to leave office that unpopular. Nor do Democrats want him to leave office that unpopular. That's the new incentive he has to compromise and get something done. Everyone has a dog in this fight. He knows his unpopularity could rub off on the next potential Democratic presidential nominee. And the Republicans know they need to show results between now and 2016, show the public what they can do with their majority. So everyone has a dog. There are incentives in here to get things done.

    GIGOT: So should Republicans, James, should they be willing to work with the president? Remember, 2011 didn't work out so well. 2013 didn't work out so well. So this time, now that they have the Senate, should Republicans feel, OK, we really should attempt to get something done with the president or, wait, he's going to sand bag us no matter what?

    JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: In his Wednesday remarks, incoming majority leader, Mitch McConnell, in the Senate, said his approach with the president is going to be trust but verify. That's probably about right. You would think maybe the -- after the drubbing, the thumping, whatever you want to call it, Democrats would be telling him to move to the center. But you look at the Democrats left in the Senate, it's a more liberal group in terms of those up in 2016. Michael Bennett, in Colorado, kind of a more of a moderate, but most of them on the left --


    GIGOT: What does that tell you --


    FREEMAN: There's not going to be take whole lot of pressure, I don't think, from that caucus to move to the center so I think for the --


    GIGOT: No, but do you agree with Jason, though, that the president himself, who has only got two years left -- I mean, his caucus?

    FREEMAN: Nothing I saw Wednesday says he's ready to move to the center. He said a moment of reflection. I think it might only have been a moment.


    And I think for Republicans, what they have to expect is that they are going to get more of the same because that's basically what he said on Wednesday. Now, there may be opportunities. I think free trade agreements are a big one. Democrats in the House and Senate were really the stumbling blocks there. Now there are fewer of them. That should be easier. Other than that, I'm not sure they should be that optimistic.

    GIGOT: Kim what's the mentality among the Republicans, particularly the leadership after this? They feel more confident. They have more votes. But do they feel an imperative to actually accomplish something, that they can go back to voters and say, see, we delivered some corporate tax reform. We delivered some pro-growth legislation. We helped to fix ObamaCare in certain areas.

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: No, they absolutely do, because here's the thing, here's what the leaders in Washington are interested in. They don't know how Barack Obama is going to react to their overtures and I don't hold out a lot of home. But Republicans, what they've got to do is they've got to choose some bipartisan, popular issues. They can get some Democrats to go along with them in the Senate and the House. They send it to the president. And the important thing is, when they do that, they force him to then be the reason that something doesn't get done. If he decides to veto it, it's on him. In a way, they win that debate. And they also, therefore, show the country what things might look like and might be possible if there were a Republican president and Republican Congress going forward. So there is an imperative to simply move legislation and do it on their terms and on priorities that they think will resonate with the public.

    GIGOT: But here is the rub. They can't govern from Capitol Hill by themselves.

    HENNINGER: Right.

    GIGOT: The president has the veto. He can stop what he wants. And then there's that 60-vote barrier in the Senate, the filibuster. And the Democrats, as I think James pointed out, the Democrats in the Senate are not going to be enthusiastic about passing too much and giving Republicans credit for that. So how -- and so they are going to have to temper their expectations, I guess, and the Republican electorate will have to do that, too, because they can't get everything they want.

    HENNINGER: Yeah. I think they have to treat the president with respect but they will also have to be firm. When they debate issues with him, they'll have to be clear about the principles behind their ideas: reviving the economy and recreating economic opportunity for people, and explain to people why the president's policy --


    GIGOT: Briefly, Jason.

    RILEY: A first big test of this will be immigration, whether he will compromise with the Republicans on this, share credit and accept that he won't get everything he wants.