Lessons for the White House from '09 Election Results

(AP/CBS/iStockphoto)
1. The White House has trouble melding its approach to governing, and standards of transparency and brand of being above politics, with a strong-arming White House political operation willing and capable of leading the Democratic Party to victory.

2. Barack Obama's political coalition is not invincible and it is not perpetual. The Obama election didn't changed the fundamental political dynamics of off-year elections.

3. The White House's time horizons are longer than and different than the time horizons of House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates. It was more important for, say, Creigh Deeds, to get a health care bill passed by August than it was for President Obama. Mr. Obama's building a strong re-election coalition in 2012, but it's going to be frustrating for Democrats in the short term. Mr. Obama's approval rating in New Jersey was 57 percent. He's still in good shape.

4. The traditional, unthreatening Republican economic message -- lower taxes, less spending, more disciplined government -- resonates better with independents than the Democratic message -- we need to spend our way out of the recession.

5. Deep recessions are deadly for governors, who must balance their budgets by cutting spending deeply or raising taxes.

6. It's very hard for Democrats to simultaneously turn out the Obama Coalition (younger, more liberal, more minority voters) and suburban independents (particularly older, particularly men).

CBSNews.com Election Night Coverage:

Results
All Election Night 2009 Results
Republicans Sweep N.J., Va. Gov. Races
N.Y. Democrat Owens Wins House Seat
Maine Voters Reject Gay Marriage
Breckenridge, Colo., Votes to Legalize Pot

Analysis
What McDonnell's Win Means for the GOP, Obama
Corzine's Fall Has Been Festering for a While
What Doug Hoffman's Loss Means to Conservatives
Lessons for the White House from '09 Election Results
Why Christie Won in New Jersey
McDonnell Won Due to Turnout, Independents
Exit Polls in Va. and N.J.: The Obama (Non) Factor?



The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is CBS News' chief political consultant.

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