with all the post-mortems let me just suggest that the election was not so much about Obama, –tho it was a little– as it was about responsiveness. Chris Hayes is correct in saying that incumbents lose in bad economic times. (government–incumbents– seen as not being responsive to needs of every day voters) It is kind of that easy. In addition, Virginia rejected four years of weak democratic leadership– Tim Kaine– and in NJ, the disliked and ineffectual Jon Corzine lost.
It should be noted that in two congressional races, Obama gained two more votes for health care reform, that is unless the legislation is enacted before January. This is good news for the Dems and for the President.
Further, while Michael Steele is gloating this morning about GOP victories in NJ and Virginia, he has got to be one of the least competent national party leaders in a long time (verdict still out on Kaine). The guy endorsed both losing candidates in NY’s 23rd district (Scozzafava and Hoffman). There is also a civil war going on in the GOP, tho it now remains to be seen whether the Now-Nothing Hoffman-Palin wing needs to regroup and come on stronger or whether their clout is now on the wane. A Hoffman win actually would have been better for the Dems because it would have increased the clout of the Know Nothings, which makes the GOP less credible as a national level. o well.
In my opinion the perception of Obama weakness at this early stage in his presidency owes to his unwillingness to follow his own better judgment on issues from health care to afghanistan. His better judgment as I see it tells him that Afghanistan is a no win quagmire and that health care needs a strong public option. His narrative has disappeared into his post partisanship narrative, which has him obsessing over token Republican support for his policy agenda. This obsession is delusional b/c it is never going to happen and only waters down Obama’s own agenda (making him less responsive). (If the pres and his team cannot learn from this and if this obsession has psychological roots, i think we’re screwed.)
In sum, i think the election results come down to a case of (ir)responsiveness. Obama needs to be more responsive to the constituencies and messages that elected him. Dems need to be more responsive their progressive voices and to their campaign messages. VA. and NJ governors (and in VA– the candidate Deeds) were not responsive. And just hoping the GOP will follow their KNow Nothing fringe.