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'Fiscal Cliff' Will Test Republicans, Democrats

STEVEN R. HURST

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. political landscape changed little with Tuesday's election, and now both Democrats and Republicans will be tested by the immediate need for moderation if they are to avoid the feared "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts that could send the country into a recession.

The Republican Party is entering a period of introspection after failing to block President Barack Obama from a second White House term, even after a period of the worst financial pain for middle-class Americans since the Great Depression of the 1930.

The election was evidence that the majority of voters are no longer willing to accept the leadership of a Republican Party that has been pushed to the far right of the political spectrum by its small-government, low-tax tea party faction.

But Obama and his Democrats also must be ready for compromise, with Americans yearning to see an end to the deep partisan divide and legislative gridlock that has gripped Washington in recent years.

Obama adviser David Axelrod warned Republican leaders to take lessons from Tuesday's vote. The president won after pledging to raise taxes on American households earning more than $250,000 a year "and was re-elected in a significant way," Axelrod told MSNBC Thursday morning.

"Hopefully people will read those results and read them as a vote for cooperation and will come to the table," Axelrod said. "And obviously everyone's going to have to come with an open mind to these discussions. But if the attitude is that nothing happened on Tuesday, that would be unfortunate."

He pointed out that conservative Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdoch in Indiana dismissed the value of compromise and instead said Democrats should join the GOP. "And I note that he's not on his way to the United States Senate," Axelrod said. Mourdock lost to Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly.

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