WASHINGTON (Reuters) - He couldn't preserve the political lives of fellow Democrats this month, but he can still save a turkey.
President Barack Obama pardoned "Apple," a 45-pound bird, and his feathered friend, "Cider," on Wednesday in an annual White House ritual ahead of Thanksgiving, a holiday Americans celebrate with a big turkey dinner.
"Today, I have the awesome responsibility of granting a presidential pardon to a pair of turkeys," Obama, standing with his two daughters in the White House Rose Garden, told a smiling audience.
"Now, for the record, let me say that it feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November."
Democrats lost strength in the Senate and their majority in the House of Representatives on November 2 in elections Obama described famously as a "shellacking", or heavy beating.
Politics took a backseat to the more high-profile turkey ceremony on Wednesday, however, and the president -- calling it "one official duty I am sworn to uphold as the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth" -- made the most of it.
He explained the process that led to the birds' selection: two turkeys from a California ranch won the high-stakes competition by strutting to music before a panel of judges.
"Only one pair would survive and win the big prize: life and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington," Obama said to laughter.
White House staff had gathered outside to watch. Obama's chief economist, Austan Goolsbee, dispensed advice about turkey preparation, proclaiming the virtues of brining the bird before it is cooked.
Apple and Cider will not have to worry about a brine bath.
The two turkeys will spend the rest of their days on the grounds of Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of the first U.S. president, George Washington.
Editing by Jerry Norton