WASHINGTON President Barack Obama's senior aides on Tuesday accused Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of promoting political gridlock and gamesmanship for saying he wants to ensure Obama is a one-term president.
A week before congressional elections, White House officials acknowledged that Republicans would gain seats in the U.S. Congress in next Tuesday's midterm elections, and said Obama would test whether Republicans are willing to work with him.
Washington politics will likely get more difficult for Obama after the congressional elections, with Republicans looking strong enough to take control of the House of Representatives and cut the Democratic majority in the Senate.
"There will be more Republicans. We are ready to work together. The question is, are they ready to work with us?" Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, told MSNBC.
With many Americans in an anti-Washington mood, political battles between Obama's Democrats and the opposition Republicans are a strong possibility over taxes, spending and deficits when a new Congress takes power in January.
Most steps that the two sides take will be seen in the context of the 2012 presidential election campaign. Obama will be seeking a new four-year term and Republicans will mount a challenge to him.
'MOST IMPORTANT THING'
McConnell drew the ire of the White House by declaring Republicans over the next two years would seek not to become the president's foil, and thus help his re-election.
"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," McConnell told the National Journal.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama believes common ground can be found between the parties.
"The first message that has come from Senator McConnell is a deeply disappointing message that regardless of the outcome of this election, political gridlock and political gamesmanship is what the American people have to look forward to over the next two years," Gibbs said.
McConnell spokesman Don Stewart fired back that "ending the Obama administration's liberal agenda as soon as possible is Senator McConnell's top political priority."
"The American people are clamoring for a focus on jobs and righting our economy. Instead, for two years the president and the majority in Congress have veered off to the far left and pursued their own liberal wish-list agenda," Stewart said.
The dispute comes toward the end of an often-bitter campaign season in which Obama and his Republican opponents have accused each other of backing policies that have worsened America's economic situation.
McConnell and other Republicans have been studying the history: After winning the House in 1994, Republicans over-read their mandate and triggered a government shutdown over a budget issue in 1995. Americans went on to give Democrat Bill Clinton a second presidential term in 1996.
(Editing by Will Dunham)