The votes are in.
It is a Republican colored “Morning in America,” or at least in the House of Representatives. The Senate also has a noticeably more reddish, Republican, glow. So is it fair for Democrats to blame President Obama? Is it fair for Republicans to say that the 2010 midterm election that amounted to a rebuff of President Obama?
The answer to both questions is yes.
The White House knew by late summer that this election cycle had been nationalized and President Obama was on the hot seat. After Labor Day the president took to the campaign trail to do over 70 fundraisers, appear at about 20 political rallies and do countless radio and TV interviews including MTV and Comedy Central.
Despite that investment of presidential capital Republicans gained control of the House and made record gains in the Senate – though they fell short of gaining the majority.
So, now what does the nation’s chief executive do to reverse his political fortunes before the 2012 presidential election?
When President Clinton faced a similar political predicament after the 1994 midterms he accepted the idea of a political rebuke and famously began to ‘triangulate’ by moving to the political middle ground, notably on taxes and welfare.
Clinton was the former two-time governor of a moderate Southern state – Arkansas – where he demonstrated the capacity to stage a comeback after conservatives ousted him from governor’s office. The point is that President Clinton knew how to change course in response to an altered landscape.
By contrast, President Obama is the still convinced, his top aides told me earlier this week, that he is doing what is right for the American people in the long run and feels history will vindicate him for daring to withstand the political volatility.
He has no second thoughts about his decision to bail out Wall Street firms and pass a reform package for the financial industry, spend heavily on a stimulus package that has become a political liability, and put his party on the hook for passing health care reform.
The White House view is that the American electorate is upset about high unemployment and a slow economic recovery and is lashing out.
A Fox News poll exit poll found nearly two-thirds of all voters said they went to the polls either to support or oppose the man in the White House. That breaks down to 24 percent who said their vote was in support of the president and 38 percent who said they went to the polls to make a statement of opposition to the president.
A Rasmussen reports poll found that 52 percent of likely voters saw the election as having more to do with their judgment on the president than with the candidates or issues on their local ballots.And that survey also found 56 percent of Americans queried saying that President Obama should change course after the election even though two-thirds said they did not expect him to change.
Among the energized, partisan voters the results are even more dramatic. A Wall Street Journal poll found that among voters who strongly wanted a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, in other words energized Republican voters, 45 percent said they cast their votes as a protest against President Obama and the current Democratic majority in the House.
That is not as strong a vote as the 65 percent partisan Democrats cast against President Bush in the 2006 cycle when Democrats took control of the House. But it was stronger than the 41 percent of Republicans who said their 1994 vote to give control of Congress to Republicans was a vote against then President Bill Clinton.
This comes as President Obama’s approval ratings remain in the low to mid-40 percent range. That is on level with the approval ratings for President Carter, Reagan and Clinton at the same point in their presidencies.
But what is key in looking at President Obama’s standing with the American people is that this is the same man who won the presidency with a strong 52.9 percent of the vote and at the time of his inauguration had a favorability rating of about 70 percent.
It has been quite a fall from grace. A mid-October Gallup poll found that President Obama’s favorability rating -- 47 percent -- is now exceeded by his unfavorable rating – 50 percent.
The key to the president’s personal political recovery plan is to win back independent voters. And to make that case he has to demonstrate that he is genuinely interested in working with Republicans.
The obvious targets for White House compromise begins with extending the Bush tax cuts to people who make more than $250,000 for two years or more – beyond the 2012 presidential contest.
Next in line are more tax breaks and capital investment incentives for small businesses.
If the president makes the case to independent voters that he is committed to bipartisan efforts to spur the economy and produce jobs he can climb back and win when his name is again on the ballot.
If he prefers to stand on the conviction that he is right and those swing voters are wrong he may well be vindicated by history but it will be the political equivalent of ”Nightfall in America” for Obama at the end of his first term.
Juan Williams is a Fox News political analyst.
Juan Williams currently serves as a co-host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) The Five (weekdays 5-6PM/ET) and also appears as a political analyst on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace and Special Report with Bret Baier. Williams joined the network as a contributor in 1997.