Strategy Corner: Exit Polls Show the Voters Just Want Obama Back in the Center and on the Economy

If President Obama wants to serve a second term, he will have to heed the call to recalibrate his administration. He was elected as a centrist. The people want him to be one.
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Without doubt the Tea Party will be rejoicing at the midterm results and laying down ultimatums to the Republican Party to steer to the right, and the Republican Party, having embraced the Tea party, will be hard pressed to say "no" to the new right wing in America.

Poll after poll shows that the Tea Party is really a splinter of the Republican Party, and the exit polls show that this was a vote about the economy, not ideology. Only 23 percent of the voters said that they were casting a vote for the Tea Party while 56 percent said it was not a factor and the rest outright opposed them.

But 62 percent of the voters said that the economy was the key factor determining their vote. The polls show that the voters want tax cuts not tax increases, modification or repeal of health care, spending cuts and above all jobs.

With health care reform, cap and trade bills, and tax increases, President Obama got out of step with the voters. Why he didn't just kick the Bush tax cuts down the road a year and get them out of the election cycle is mystifying. Instead -- just like in 1994 -- the Democrats ran on the platform of increasing taxes for the wealthy, amplifying class warfare rather than ending it.

Whoever told President Obama "don't worry, just pass health care and they will love it" must be squirming in his seat tonight. And all those who think that tacking further to the left is the answer for the Democrats should look at these results carefully and think again.

President Obama and the Democrats lost many of the new constituencies they had won in 2008 -- they lost independents by 15 percent in the CNN exit poll. Obama had won them by 8 points. They lost seniors by 16 points, doubling the loss from 8 points while seniors turned out in droves. And they lost voters in households making over $100,000 by 16 points; compared to an even split in 2008, that is evidence of the damage of the reinvigorated class warfare strategy. These are all battleground voting blocs that Obama had done well enough with to trounce McCain.

And the two other core constituencies of President Obama -- young voters and minorities -- stayed home, with their percentage of the vote dropping dramatically. In the end the Republicans and the Tea Party won the turnout war and those differences are also a major factor in the outcome. 41 percent of the voters were conservative, up from 34 percent in the 2008 presidential election. Only 11 percent of the voters were aged 18 to 29, compared to 18 percent in the presidential election.

These results are just plain facts, and the president needs to stand up and take notice. The voters are rejecting the current course and have thrown up a major roadblock to his policies.

But this does not mean that the voters want to gut Medicare, Medicaid, Education or the Environment. They don't want the government shut down; they want it fully open for business. Above all, they want jobs, and they are willing to vote for any party they believe may have the answer to the economy. Nancy Pelosi became the poster child of the left and became the target of the Republican right. They scored a bulls eye on her, but all glory is fleeting. The burden will be on the Republicans now to be a responsible handbrake -- if they again shut down the government they will lose the public's trust and support very quickly.

If President Obama wants to serve a second term, he will have to heed the call to recalibrate his administration. He was elected as a centrist. They want him to be one. He was elected as a youthful, vigorous candidate who would lead us into a more global future. They want him to do just that. He was elected to end, not amplify partisanship. President Clinton turned his White House around from a similar defeat in 1994. President Obama faces the same choices and opportunities to remain true to democratic values and yet set a new direction to turn all this around.

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