Salena Zito

The result for Democrats, he says, is a very fractured party that failed to govern in the middle or to listen to voters. “Lesson learned: When people are suffering and the economy is on everyone’s mind, then focus on the economy.”

With the exception of school reform, President Obama and the 111th Congress do not have any policy initiatives that enable them to appear centrist, or to appear as if they are doing something prudent to help the sluggish economy.

“Because the president has never really lived in a ‘red’ state, he doesn't know how to communicate with red-state folks,” says Bob Maranto, a University of Arkansas political scientist.

In the 2008 campaign, Obama talked about how he worked his way up from relative disadvantage, how he loves America’s openness and opportunities, how he is a man of faith. Such talk ended the moment he was elected.

“The president's narrative now is that ‘I'm a good guy, but you dumb Americans just don't understand how great my policies are,’ ” Maranto says. “That narrative didn't work for (Jimmy) Carter, so I don't see it working for Obama.”

Mark Stein, author of “How the States got their Shape,” says that if the federal government drew state lines today, we definitely would feel a difference upon entering each state “because that redistribution would be geopolitical.”

Yet this year, across the board, all geopolitical lines are blurred: Liberals, conservatives, moderates, Republicans, independents, Democrats, Wall Street and, most importantly, Main Street are all are unhappy with the results, and that has fueled voter outrage.

Most Democrats are running away from the major policies they helped to enact while Republican candidates are capitalizing on their opposition to those, explains Jeff Brauer, a public-policy expert.

On Tuesday you will see plenty of pundits quibble over the word “concern” as it relates to the voters’ mood. They probably won’t use the word “fear,” so they will miss the point.

This election is not about Republicans or Democrats. It's about people who don't like what has happened in the last 10 years – and about Obama, who has moved them from anger with Bush to fear for the future.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.