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Obama has reason to strut -- and watch his step


Everyone in the “punditocracy” is pouring over the entrails of the election asking the rhetorical question — what does President Obama's victory mean?

The simple answer is Obama won four more years and Romney lost. That’s what elections are about; one team wins, the other loses.  

Of course it’s never that simple because the winning side must translate electoral victory into a governing strategy, while the losing team must find answers to why it failed. 

Winners face the daunting challenge of moving on; losers face doubt and recriminations. 

The most enduring lesson is that Barack Obama defied the odds, given a sour economy, winning a second term with a large Electoral College victory and a 2.8 million edge in the popular vote. The Obama machine churned out a powerful block-by-block ground game.

The legacy of Obama’s winning formula is that he crafted a winning coalition by building on his success in 2008, cobbling together a coalition of African-Americans, Latinos, single women, youth with enough white voters to neutralize team Romney’s goal to ride the “economy, stupid” theme to victory. The key was framing Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat. 

The challenge for Republican leaders is to comprehend that they lost because the GOP is demographically out of touch with the real America — a nation where women are the majority and where the minority voter is the emerging force in U.S. politics. Can the GOP put together a broader coalition for 2016 to contend as a “presidential” party? 

If the Republican Party remains the bastion of angry white voters, their diminishing demographic base will hobble them.  But as a “Congressional” party they will have traction especially in off-year elections when turnout is low. 

In the meantime, Barack Obama has a rendezvous with reality — an impending fiscal cliff and a budget to prepare which will require him to “deal” with the GOP leadership in the House and Senate while keeping members of his own coalition on board. 

Obama’s ace is that he will never run for re-election, so he’s freed from that constraint. He can bargain without fear. 

Some will assert this line of argument is false. How can a lame duck president bargain? Why will anyone on the other side take him seriously? The answer is he has nothing to lose and he has the veto pen, especially with an expanded majority in the Senate and more votes in the House.   

As Obama noted election night in Chicago, he’s in a position to unleash his machine by rallying his supporters not for an election but for “the cause.”

One needs an inside and outside game. He can bargain with the bulls on The Hill while also dialing up his base. He’s got nothing to lose.

Some say Obama won a street fight without a message. This dismisses all the messaging in the campaign about saving the middle class, creating an even playing field, demanding the rich to pay their fair share and unleashing a new economy based on green technology while becoming energy independent.

That was the message. It won and it’s the down payment on carving out a mandate to govern. 

President Obama delivered his first term against overwhelming odds, saving us from a Great Depression, regulating Wall Street excess, passing Obamacare while ending the Iraq war and dialing back the Afghanistan war. He kept his promises.

Obama won, Romney lost. Elections mean something. It’s now time for Obama to use his hard-earned capital in Congress and on Main Street. After all, the President of the United States is the main game in town. And with a GOP in free fall, it’s Obama’s time to strike while the loyal opposition is in tatters.

If Obama stumbles, one should not underestimate a GOP comeback. The Democrats self-destructed in ‘68 then won in ’76, then stalled out again until '92 and '96. Such is the yin and yang of our political system.  

The euphoria in the ranks of Obama Nation should be tempered by acknowledging this was a personal victory for Barack Obama more than an electoral game changer. Organization delivered, but the power of Obama’s personal narrative is the key to his remarkable journey in 2008 and 2012.