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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Analysis of Election Results

FPC Briefing
David Lublin
Professor, American University
Foreign Press
Washington, DC
November 4, 2010


Date: 11/04/2010 Location: Washington D.C. Description: Professor David Lublin, American University, provides analysis of election results at the Washington Foreign Press Center on November 4, 2010. - State Dept Image

9:30 A.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. I know you had two very nice tours and you had a chance, an opportunity, to see people actually voting. And today, we’re going to have a briefing with Professor David Lublin, who is going to actually tell you what does this all mean.

David.

MR. LUBLIN: Well, that’s really a big question: What does it all mean? What it really means, obviously, is that the country is being returned to the situation that it has experienced for most of its legislature since World War II; namely, that the presidency is controlled by one party while at least one house of Congress – in this case the House of Representatives – is controlled by the other. As I’m sure you all know, the Republicans made historic gains and picked up – it looks like around 64-odd seats – in the House of Representatives, and they also made substantial gains in the Senate, though, currently it looks like to me that the Democrats, including Independent who caucus with them, will hold about 53 of the 100 Senate seats. So life is about to get more interesting in our Republic.

I guess I sort of want to take it from the perspective of questions rather than me going on about what we all read in the newspaper, and so are there any questions? I’m a professor, so I can rattle on endlessly if you’d like. But --

MODERATOR: Yeah. Please state your name and publication before you ask a question.

QUESTION: I would like to know within the Democratic Party if they are raining on Obama because of the loss. Thank you.

MR. LUBLIN: I think there’s been some criticism, of course, within in the Democratic Party of President Obama. There’s criticism on two fronts of him. First is messaging, that it wasn’t so much maybe the Democratic Party’s message, but that it was not communicated effectively or aggressively to the people, that the Administration was too defensive. There are some people also maybe from more of the left wing of the party who say that the Republicans were better able to get out their voters because they catered to their base versus the Democrats by trying to be more moderate and work with the Republicans left some Democrats feeling disenchanted. Now whether that analysis is true is not so clear.

QUESTION: What impact for foreign countries do you think this will have in terms of things like trade deals, like Obama Administration’s had done some progress in Korea and there’s a lot of interest in my neck of the woods about the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Will that kind of grind to a halt or is that something you think the Republicans will move along?

MR. LUBLIN: I think it’s an interesting question. It’ll show whether the two parties, to a certain extent, are more interested in jockeying for a position for two years from now for the presidential elections where they want to work together. I would think actually the issue you raised is precisely the opportunity for them to work together, because while trade splits both of our major parties to an extent, the Republicans have basically been more pro-free trade. The question is: Are they more wanting to get this part of their agenda accomplished or do they want to deny the Obama Administration even minor victories.

It’ll be a bit interesting also because it might be something which the Democrats in Congress will be more resistant to because it provides temptation regarding debates over jobs with unemployment being very high, and also, in general, maybe some of the more moderate representatives who tended to favor free trade were defeated on that side of the aisle. So we’ll see, but I think it provides opportunities.

Certainly, President Obama, if he can like sell it to the people that it’s vital to create jobs, the question is whether his partisans in Congress will agree with him. Though, to a certain extent, maybe it matters less on – in the House, obviously, since the Republicans will have the majority there.

MODERATOR: Can we take the next question from New York, please.

QUESTION: What has happened in Washington, but what about what has happened in the capitals of the states? Now, some of the states have obtained now a Republican power in all three – at all three levels, governor, assembly, Senate. And there is going to be a redistricting. Now what recourse from out of state does exist in the U.S. system against gerrymandering, because that might be actually a change which is going to be much more prolonged for a long term in the future if gerrymandering is going to create districts that will turn next elections, starting 2012, into a one-way street?

MR. LUBLIN: Well, I’m a little worried mainly because redistricting is one of my favorite topics. My first book makes an excellent Christmas gift if you’d like to read more on the subject. You’re quite right, the Republicans may have set the stage for more long-term gains in the sense that in our system, we allow each state to draw the congressional districts, and unlike in most other democracies that use the system like Canada and Australia or the United Kingdom, we do not have them drawn by neutral non-partisan bodies except for in the case of Iowa.

Increasingly, some states have tried to set up bipartisan or neutral commissions. California passed an initiative that will do that, but that will work to the disadvantage of the Democrats. And Republicans have now gained control of redistricting in a large portion of the country, though not in a portion containing a majority of the seats. It will be interesting to see to what extent they’re able to press their advantage.

On the counter poise perhaps to our system when it comes to gerrymandering is this, that we have more legal remedies against abuse of the power as a result. So that, first of all, our congressional districts must be drawn incredibly equal. You can’t like put too few Republicans in districts and too few Democrats because the other party will sue and go to court and win.

The other thing is we have Voting Rights Act which is a very strong and muscular protection of minority representation designed to protect, particularly African American and Latino districts where voters can elect candidates they prefer, but also helping at times American Indians and other minorities, and so people are very cognizant of that.

The other thing is that perhaps helps keep things a bit more interesting is that despite the partisan interest in the process, you have to remember our parties are large and often unruly amalgamations of interests, including personal interests, and so what may be to a party’s advantage is not always to the advantage of every single member of its caucus who may be less willing to support their party’s plan. But in general, yes, you’re absolutely right this could provide huge, long-term dividends for the Republican Party.

The other thing I’d say, though, is that at the end of the day, it’s hard to gerrymander out the will of the people fully. I commend to you the experience, of say, Ireland where Fine Gael once tried to redistrict the Dail to essentially help it get reelected and Fianna Fail, the opposition, ended up winning a bigger landslide. It can be hard to predict what the voters want to do. Several of the plans that were gerrymandered for one party or the other at the beginning of this decade clearly have fallen apart for one or even both parties by the end of the decade. And I think that’s good, obviously, because unlike Bertolt Brech, we don’t want – as Bertolt Brecht said, where governments select the people and dissolve the people rather than vice-a-versa.

MODERATOR: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Which path do you think that President Obama will take, the path that took President Clinton after losing the – his first midterm elections or the path that took Ronald Reagan after losing again his mid-term elections?

MR. LUBLIN: I think he’ll do a bit of in between. I think the Democratic Party in Congress is noticeably more liberal which, of course, in American-speak means more left wing rather than right wing, as it does in many countries, and so as a result, he needs to sort of support his party’s base. I think in some ways, this will provide opportunities as well as dangers for President Obama. It will be much harder for him to get any part of his agenda through Congress, but it will also provide opportunities to draw distinctions with the Republicans. So if they pass legislation that he doesn’t like, he can veto it and force them to negotiate with him. I think he’ll (inaudible) with President Clinton in the sense that sometimes clash can be very good for presidents with Congress, particularly because they have the bigger microphone.

And the one thing I’d point out – and I think the Republicans are a bit more aware, which may mean they’re a bit smarter about this than Newt Gingrich this time; we’ll see how it plays out – but that they’re sort of aware that they are not necessarily that popular right now. I mean, my understanding is that polls show that the incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner is actually less popular than the outgoing speaker of the House. So it’s not necessarily going to be the case that making the Republican leadership the face of the Republican Party is going to help them that much and it’s – they’re going to have to – however, they’re also going to have to cater to a lot of their new members who want to push their agenda.

I think you’re going to see a lot of clash, you’re going to see a fair amount of gridlock, but at times you’ll also maybe see the parties strategically working together because ultimately the American people want to see their federal government getting the people’s business done and parties that look simply obstructionist, be they the Democrats or the Republicans, can eventually pay at the polls.

QUESTION: Do you think that healthcare reforms of Obama Administration are under threat and such as they have reform, could it be repealed?

MR. LUBLIN: This is where I think things become interesting is because I saw several members of the Republicans saying they vowed to repeal “Obama Care,” as they call it and that they would not compromise. Their problem will be that our entire system of government is set up to force compromise. We have 50 federal states, two separate branches of the legislature, our President who can wield the veto – President Obama will certainly veto any attempt to repeal his signal achievement. So I think they may try, but they’re not going to get very far. The Republicans may use that to position themselves to go to the people in 2012 and say, “We need to have the presidency to accomplish the agenda you elected us.” And President Obama will sort of say, “You need to return the Democrats to power to accomplish the agenda you elected us to do, too.” So I think there’s going to be a fair amount of posturing, but I’m sure this is new to you, because no politician in your country has ever posed or positioned on anything, right?

QUESTION: Just to add to Sebastian’s (ph) question, will the healthcare issue further polarize American voters? Will it lead to divisiveness?

MR. LUBLIN: Divisiveness is often sort of seen as a bad thing in politics, and certainly, if it leads to violence, it’s not a good thing. But it also is necessary for healthy debate. I mean, one thing that gets frustrating to me sometimes is you sort of interview voters and they want people just to solve the problems in the best interest of everyone. But of course, that’s not so easy and different people have different answers. And actually, having a good debate, particularly in parliamentary systems like in India, is seen as really important; that if the BJP never opposed congress, India wouldn’t be known for such a vibrant democracy. I’m sure that congress would like it much more if the BJP just said, “Oh, yes, you’re doing everything absolutely right.” But they also might die of shock if they did that. Similarly, in our country it’s necessary to have that good debate. Often also we get to more centrist policies or improved policies by critiquing the things that people don’t like in them. So I mean, ultimately, the Republicans had a large impact on healthcare reform even though they didn’t vote for it.

QUESTION: My question is: How the elections will impact on legislative business either in the House or in the Senate and expanding for years? And number two, the one who is planned, like the reconstruction approach energy zone bill expanding in the Senate and the one which is planned like $2 billion defense assistance to Pakistan in coming five years?

MR. LUBLIN: Wow. That’s a lot of issues. I think, when it comes to foreign policy, the President remains dominant, because he remains Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. It’s very hard for the Congress to oppose requests for appropriations that are deemed in the national interest. In terms of aid to Pakistan, I think that will be based on what the President is able to convince the Congress is in the national interest. I mean, I think at this point, though, there has also been tremendous sympathy for your country now due to the enormous floods which have made life difficult for so many people living there and is shared by many people around the world. It probably makes people more sympathetic to more aid to Pakistan, particularly that would reach the people.

MODERATOR: All the way in the back.

QUESTION: Do you see the election results impacting on the foreign policy of the U.S. vis-à-vis Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan?

MR. LUBLIN: Not especially, because, as I said, the President leads on foreign policy. Also, I just don’t think the area of dispute between the Administration and the Republicans is necessarily as great on those issues. The war in Iraq is ultimately winding down and the American Government is trying to turn the country back over to the Iraqis. Regardless of the administration, it’s going to remain in the American interest to promote a stable democratic government in Iraq. Similarly, in Afghanistan, the President seems committed. This is something the Republicans support by and large. Obviously, American foreign policy is always being reevaluated, but America has continuing interests regardless of which party is in power.

We – I mean, if I can make an analogy, perhaps, to like our relations with the United Kingdom, it’s not like we have good relations when the Republicans are in power and the bad relations when the Democrats are in power or vice versa. Our emphasis on a good relationship, for example, with one of our closest allies doesn’t change just because one of our parties in power changes. Also, to a certain extent, the major debate over Iraq was whether we should stay or go. That debate seems to be coming to an end. In Afghanistan, the President may actually face more critics from his own party who think we should go.

MODERATOR: Can we go to New York, please? New York, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wonder, do you see any chance for any major piece of legislation to move forward in this congress? And also, what’s your take on a success or failure of Tea Party movement in this election?

MR. LUBLIN: Let’s take the second question first, because that’s the easier one. I think the Tea groups had some real success, but they also showed the limits of their success. The Tea Party movement always reminds me of the old Chinese saying that, “He who rides a tiger can find it difficult to dismount.” In other words, the Republicans have ridden the enthusiasm of the Tea Party movement, but they don’t necessarily quite know where it’s going to take them. And in some cases, it hasn’t taken them to good places.

In this election, the Republicans probably would have won control of the Senate but for the Tea Party movement. If you look at Christine O’Donnell defeating Representative Castle in Delaware, Representative Castle surely would have taken that seat for his party. Had the Republicans nominated, say, the one representative who, at the time, was a Republican in Nevada instead of Sharron Angle, I think there’s little question but that Harry Reid would not be returning to Washington. And so you don’t necessarily see that helping them and necessarily take all seats.

And the other question is: To what extent is it going to make it harder for the Republicans to sort of compromise? This is sort of increasingly a problem for both of our parties, that because we nominate people through primary elections – and which essentially anyone who affiliates with that party – and that’s not very difficult. It’s not like in some countries where you have to have a card and pay dues. It’s pretty much you show up or you take a box saying you’re affiliated, vote for that party. And increasingly, what that means, because our voters are so well sorted into the two parties is that the people who choose Republican nominees are very conservative and the people who choose Democratic nominees are very liberal.

In terms of getting legislation through Congress, it makes it more difficult because the trend of getting legislation through Congress – the trend in our congressional parties, that is, has been the same. That if you look at who was defeated in this election, moderate Democrats were particularly the people who lost. People who are members of what we call the “blue dog” caucus, who are the more conservative Democrats, lost at much higher rates than people who are members of the progressive, which is the most left-wing caucus.

So the Democrats are now more homogonously liberal, and I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that this election made the Republicans more moderate either. So you’re going to see a lot of clash. I think you may see a lot of fire and brimstone. Ultimately, some studies by political scientists, such as those by David Mayhew, suggest that there’s little evidence that divided government produces less important legislation than united government. Over the next two years, the country will likely be confronted with major challenges that require a governmental response, and the government will need to respond.


QUESTION: There is a widely held perception in the Middle East that there is a bias towards Israel when it comes to Israel-Palestinian situation, and it’s reinforced by such things as Israel continuing to build settlements while it’s negotiating with the Mahmoud Abbas government. Do you agree that there is a bias? And what impact will this bias have on a two-state solution? Thank you.

MR. LUBLIN: I guess that’s a complicated question. First, I would have to say in the Arab world, there’s a strong simply self-interest in saying there’s a bias, whether or not there is, because it’s a way to encourage the United States to place more pressure on Israel, which is, after all, what the Arab world would like to see. So what you see all the time in politics in this country, where politicians of both stripes say the media is unfair, which basically means they’re not saying what we would like them to say.

In terms of, I mean, the settlements, I mean, ultimately, I don’t think the fact that Israel, a third power, is constructing settlements, which is against our long-term stated wishes, is an evidence of bias on the part of the United States. It’s the evidence that Israel is continuing a policy that it wants to do, against the will not just of the – against the will of the United States. I think there are strong relations between Israel and this country, which go well beyond the influence of its – this country’s relatively small Jewish population. If anything, I think, actually, the elections will probably strengthen efforts to support Israel in this country because a lot of the conservative Republican Party is particularly supportive of Israel.

Having said that, I think we’ll – the United States’s interests there remain the same. We’d very much like to see a two-state solution established that provides more stability and peace in the Middle East, though I think increasingly, people are recognizing that Nirvana will not arrive in the Middle East the day that actually finally happens, that the Middle East faces a lot of other very long-term problems, for which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as a useful distraction for the governments of the region.

MODERATOR: All the way in the back.

QUESTION: I have two questions. The first one is, we cannot close our eyes about the switch voters that switched their votes from Democrat to Republican, so do you think that if Obama is going to run for the second term in 2012, which issues should he put more attention? So – because I don’t know, what do you think about the switch from the Democrat to the Republican? Is that because of some unpopular legislation or maybe just the Obama care? Thank you.

MR. LUBLIN: I think you have to focus on a couple things in terms of the changing electorate and that because our midterm elections do not include presidential elections, the turnout is significantly lower than in presidential elections. And so midterm elections in particular are more about who can get their voters to the polls. Republicans were really mad this year. They showed up in the polls in larger numbers than Democrats, who showed up in rather average numbers. The presidential electorate will be more expanded, which you tend to think will at least provide some trend to the Democrats, all things being equal.

Having said that, at the same time, President Obama will clearly be thinking about two years from now and how to revitalize not just his own chances for reelection, but his party’s. My own opinion is that, first of all, the economy remains critical. A lot of Americans are unhappy because the economy remains not as strong as they would like. In particular, as I think we all know, employment lags behind economic recovery. And even if it’s starting to happen, it’s happening slowly, and too slowly to make a dent in our national unemployment rates. That relates to the well being of a lot of people. It’s well and good to sort of – for President Obama to say, hey, we saved the world financial system., the TARP program did not, in fact, cost voters any money, but until voters see an improvement in their lives, they’re not going to be happy people. And so I think that’s sort of the main focus.

I think repealing Obama care would actually be directly against the President’s interests because he would be repealing the main signal achievement that pleases his own party, and why should voters of his own party go to vote him back into office to do the Republican agenda? They can just vote for Republicans to do that. I think he’ll need to show contrasts where he thinks that will benefit him and his party and – but also a willingness to compromise to sort of present to people that, hey, we’re the adults; they’re the children.

MODERATOR: Right there.

QUESTION: Will it be possible to reduce the deficit as the Republicans promised without cutting military budget, which they seem not to support?

MR. LUBLIN: I think – I really like what Joe Scarborough, a conservative commentator, said about this election, that it was a debate between those who want low-fat chocolate cake and no-fat ice cream. Okay, the Democrats want to spend endlessly without there being consequences. The Republicans want to cut spending and cut your taxes, which seems to have the same consequences as spending without raising taxes. So I think there’s clearly going to be compromise, and if there, only because a budget has to be passed. And what you will see is the Republicans attempting to cut particularly discretionary spending, and you’ll see the Administration probably working to do some of that as well, but trying to pick its battles over what it fights to save and what it fights not to save and where it thinks it’s worthwhile.

So Social Security will probably be a flashpoint, if the Republicans try and revise that. It will be more interesting to see how other discretionary spending survives, though. For example, President Obama was elected on a platform of increasing spending on public transportation. There’s not much of a constituency for that in the House Republican Party that was elected primarily not from urban areas, so one could imagine that it will be hard to get that sort of spending through the House of Representatives.

MODERATOR: People who haven’t – right there. No, no. No, there.

QUESTION: I want to know what are really the chances for Barack Obama to change the trend by 2012, knowing that they are sharing now the House and the Senate. What will be his chances, just to change completely the trend and then make it to 2012?

MR. LUBLIN: We’ll have to see on that, but what I would point out is that Barack Obama is actually more popular than Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton was after midterm elections that hurt both of them and they both got reelected. So, in contrast the first President Bush was more popular and did not get reelected. What matters is what happens over the next two years. Obviously, the political game has changed, but the rules remain the same. The voters will get to decide that in two years, and that will depend on what the people think. But I certainly would not count out President Barack Obama at all. He’s also – this is a smart guy. I mean, he was not picked to be elected president from the start. And he learns quickly, particularly from his mistakes. So we’ll see what he does.

At the same time, to the extent that he was elected to change the culture in Washington, that’s going to be hard for him to do. But every politician since the country was founded, I think, was elected to change politics in Washington. It’s kind of hard for those of us who are from Washington to hear how awful we are all the time. But on the one hand, they don’t seem to be able to do that and we’ll have to see what happens. But Barack Obama could win; he could also lose. A friend of mine, though, pointed out that actually the people who lose in some ways are lucky because most – the second term of most two-term presidencies as of late has not been so hot. So we’ll have to see what happens.

MODREATOR: Right here. Yeah.

QUESTION: One of the arguments among the Tea Party activists is the government to reduce its size. Is it possible for Obama to do so?

MR. LUBLIN: I think the size is in terms of mainly federal spending. There are some government departments they particularly don’t like, probably. We’ll have to see what they want to do and how they want to do it. It’s really going to depend. Also, I don’t know that Barack Obama views his ability to get reelected as necessarily depending wholly on that. I mean, honestly, I think the – some people are very concerned about the deficit. I think the hard times make it worse in the sense of people say I have to balance my budget and I’m not making more money, I’m making less money, why can’t the federal government do it? There’s also huge debates among economists as to whether cutting spending, as has been advocated by some, or spending more is really the right response to the economic crisis. And I think that’s ultimately a policy judgment.

QUESTION: After the elections, how do you see the future of the Russian-American relations, the reset, and especially if you could talk about the future of the START agreement. Do you think they will take out the voting in the Senate during the lame duck session, or do you think it will be possible for the new Senate to decide the future of this agreement?

MR. LUBLIN: It’ll be interesting to see. I would think if you wanted to get it ratified, now would be the time because Republicans have historically been more suspicious of tightening relations with Russia in some ways, though on the other hand past Republican presidents felt in some ways close to Russia and the interests. So we’d have to see on that. But ultimately, the Democrats cannot do it alone because treaty ratification takes two-thirds votes and they didn’t have that even in the old Senate, let alone the new Senate. The question will be to what extent can the President convince senators it’s in the interest of the United States to ratify the treaty.

I think sort of we’ve come a long way from both the Cold War and the post Cold War with Russia. There was automatic suspicion during the Cold War. After the end of the Cold War, there was sort of this euphoric view that we were all going to be one happy world and get along, and now I think the view is Russia has interests, we have interests, we need to find the commonalities and try to work together, and also though be aware of their interests as well because we can’t completely – we certainly do not expect the Russian Government to ignore its interests, though you know there’s often frustration on both sides.

I think there remains a concern, though how well expressed it will be I don’t know, on the decline of the quality of democracy in Russia though, which served as a basis for a lot of the euphoria in the post Cold War era.

MODERATOR: Someone who hasn’t asked a question yet.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR: She did? Okay. (Laughter.) Oh, you did? Okay, then we’ll go (inaudible). No, no, wait. Go ahead. Just wait for the microphone. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, Obama promised the Iraqis on the world actually with some responsible withdrawal from Iraq. He said a responsible withdrawal, which means that everything, I mean, will be in somehow okay, he will put the steps to some peaceful or calm situation in Iraq. What’s your opinion now about the situation in Iraq? And it will be a responsible withdrawal from Iraq concerning the situation? I mean that we don’t have even army in Iraq, we don’t have an air forces, we don’t have these heavy tools of an army. So it will be responsible decision from Obama to withdraw from Iraq?

MR. LUBLIN: I mean, I think ultimately that’s a question you’re better posed to answer than myself. I guess I would be shocked if any president said, “I’m favoring an irresponsible withdrawal from Iraq.” (Laughter.) Okay? Or, “We’re basically expecting it to fall apart the minute we leave.” I mean, I would not be supportive of the Iraqi Government or of American efforts.

At some point, the withdrawal actually serves a useful purpose for the Iraqi Government in that it sort of forces the very diverse forces within Iraq to sort of have what in the United States we increasingly call a “make it work moment,” that the United States is no longer going to be there to sort of prop things up quite so much, that ultimately the Iraqi Government is going to have to find ways to incorporate the diverse elements and territories of Iraq into a government that can gain support. Hopefully, over time it will take root that the way to change government in Iraq is by voting, not so much by violence.

I guess from the perspective of an American, the thing that’s most disappointing about the Iraq situation is the willingness of Iraqis to perpetrate violence on other Iraqis to accomplish their goals. And regardless of what one thinks about the invasion of your country, I think most Americans at least feel reasonably proud that as we’re leaving we’ve tried to give Iraqis the opportunity to choose their own government and to select their own leaders, which is the way we tend to believe it should be done.

QUESTION: What about (inaudible) the army? I mean, they didn’t speak about this issue. I mean, we don’t have army, we don’t have air forces. Why the American are fear that Iraq have a real army with an air forces, with heavy tools of an army?

MR. LUBLIN: I mean, I think there have actually been efforts to develop and train Iraqis in these areas. Ultimately, Iraq will succeed not – live or die not so much on whether or not it has an army and strong security forces, but on sort of the consent of its people. Obviously, you need to have some of that both to fight the insurgents and to protect Iraq from unfriendly powers. But do we really want to go back to an Iraq where the government retains power based strictly on fear? Which is why so many governments need so many internal security forces. We certainly have things like the FBI and the CIA in this country to protect us from foreign and domestic powers, but the strength of the American Government and people rests on that. They are not the reason the government stays in power.

MODERATOR: Do you want to ask one? Right here.

QUESTION: There is a consensus that --

MODERATOR: Your name, please?

QUESTION: It’s Sebastian Lacunza from Argentina, Ambito Financiero newspaper. There is a consensus that the economy was the key point in the election, but why people or many people didn’t blame on Republicans for such key points as the deficit, the huge spendings, and other things that are crucial for their life, and they left the government just two years ago?

MR. LUBLIN: Two thoughts very quickly. One, boy, the Democrats would like to know the answer to that question. Okay? (Laughter.) Right? Secondly, Americans are demanding people. They want it and they want it now. So they wanted a better economy more quickly. Instead, we’re in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression and it’s really tough. And so people are dissatisfied.

QUESTION: What do you think of the argument that --


QUESTION: What do you think of the argument that this result isn’t really a good thing for Obama, and would you be willing to make a call on how you think it will go for him? Will this be beneficial to him in the long run that he didn’t have full control and keep pushing through his agenda?

MR. LUBLIN: I don’t know if leading your party to historic losses will even be considered to your long-term benefit, but maybe it helped Bill Clinton appear more moderate between the extreme right of the Republicans and the Democrats. We’ll have to see. I think ultimately he would certainly like to lead his party back into control, or at least a better position in two years.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. LUBLIN: To be honest, I think it’s too early to say. And while I could sort of irresponsibly give you some answer – and I won’t be here in two years to have you say wait, you said this and that has nothing to do with reality. It’s the great advantage of being a pundit. I honestly don’t really have a prediction on that.

QUESTION: A few days ago back in Miami, a pollster told us – he didn’t actually literally say that but implied, suggested that the Tea Party’s got really nothing to do with the state of economy. He said that the Tea Party was founded like one month after President Obama was inaugurated. And how do you see that?

MR. LUBLIN: Well, I mean, I think there is some genuine reaction against his agenda by some people that have been very nervous and certainly right-wing commentators have done their best to stir it up. The question will be can the Republicans recovery credibility on some of these issues both with the Tea group voters and with the public, because after all, since the large deficits began during the Republican era and certainly got larger as we got to the end of the Bush presidency and certainly during the Obama presidency, the question is: Are the Republicans going to be able to have a meaningful impact on this, since in the past their interest in deficits has been somewhat lower?

But in some ways, I think it’s going to be very important for them to show some genuine progress on this, both to show that they matter and also because their own voters will become disillusioned if they’re unable to have an impact. Their problem is, in some ways, that their voters expect them to change everything very quickly, too, and it’s going to be hard for them to accomplish that goal.

MODERATOR: One last question.

QUESTION: You said that in Afghanistan, President may face more criticism from his own party that we should go. Could you elaborate it further? And number two, do you there are prospects to withdraw from Afghanistan by middle of next year?

MR. LUBLIN: I don’t think I’m in a position to assess the second question, so I won’t. I’m not an expert on the military situation in Afghanistan. I think certainly some Democrats would really like it if we did.

On the first question, there’s more criticism among the President – essentially, some Democrats have reacted much like some Republicans reacted to their losses, that the problem is that we didn’t appeal to our base enough, essentially, is what they said. We did not appeal to left Democrats and give them a reason to go vote for the people. We didn’t – they’d say to the Congress, “We didn’t pass – we didn’t end ‘don’t ask; don’t tell’ for gays in the military. We didn’t pass immigration reform. We did not pass cap and trade. Of course people didn’t come and vote for us.” So in some ways, that’s sort of a lot of the criticism. The question will be that the more they see of what the Republican leadership wants, maybe they’ll have a chance to fall in love with Barack Obama again or we’ll have to see if he faces a challenge from the left wing of his own party, which is a possibility.

But on the other hand, most commentators on election night did not think this would necessarily happen. And I think President Obama actually has a very strong base within the party. And so people who might actually have a shot at winning the presidency don’t necessarily want to take on a fruitless task. Though, someone might do it just to make a point. Also, if you want to get elected president, do you really want to alienate the voters within your party who like him? Because after all, if not in two years, in six years there’s going to be another opportunity.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

MR. LUBLIN: Thank you.

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