Obama may face "Goldilocks" voters

KUALA LUMPUR Tue Nov 2, 2010 10:32am EDT

1 of 7. Six-year-old Sloan Atkins, stands on a chair waiting for her mother to return to the voting box at a local polling station in Miami November 2, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Hans Deryk

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - President Barack Obama may be facing Goldilocks voters in Tuesday's congressional election who feel that he's done too much, or too little, in two years in office, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

A player in U.S. elections for more than two decades, Clinton, as the top U.S. diplomat, is now barred from domestic politics and chose to spend election day on the other side of the world on a two-week, seven-nation Asia-Pacific trip.

Anxiety over the stumbling U.S. economy and discontent with Obama and government in Washington have brought Republicans to the threshold of huge gains that could give them a majority in the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate.

Taping a televised question-and-answer program in Kuala Lumpur, Clinton was asked whether Obama, a Democrat, could advance his agenda when "he himself is having challenges winning the hearts of the American people."

Clinton pointed to the long history of a U.S. president's party losing seats in Congress in the election after he takes office, noting this happened to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in 1994.

"A new president gets elected, he usually does an enormous amount his first two years, and then everybody in America says 'well that's not enough' or 'that's too much,'" she said.

"It's like Goldilocks ... It's too hot, it's too cold, it's not right," she added. "So they send a message to the new president by voting out members of Congress of his party."

Clinton said she believed history would look kindly on Obama -- particularly for stabilizing the world economy and preventing "a global depression" soon after he took office.

During more than an hour of questions about everything from her role as a mother-in-law to the rise of China, one man joked that if Clinton had won the 2008 election she would have visited Malaysia as president.

"If I had become the president, I would not be here because we have an election tomorrow," Clinton joked back, saying she had spoken to Obama during the middle of the night "and I think he was a little envious that I'm here."