Hysteria has lapsed into disaffection: it was a bleak night for President Obama. But, despite the apparent immediacy of
a ‘conservative moment’, there is caution in Republican circles this morning: both Clinton and Reagan won from similar positions in 1982 and 1994. The G.O.P’s leadership knows that
elections are not won from the extremes, as Barack Obama has discovered to his cost, and it is trying to calm the party’s often excitable fringe, which will be no easy task if Rand Paul’s
‘Tea Party tidal wave’ is anything to go by.
Ben Brogan recently highlighted the G.O.P’s growing ‘Stop
Palin’ campaign, and David Frum adds his voice again. Chancers and charismatics like Palin titillate their captive
audiences; but they can enrage the unconverted and, as Karl Rove put it recently, affront the dignity
of the office to which they aspire. Christine O’Donnell’s dismal performance in a race she might have won is a case in
point. (Marco Rubio may yet prove an exception to the rule, but, baring an Obama-style rise, his day is distant.)
The Tea Party aside, the Republicans are nowhere near ready for government at present. The
tenor of its formal opposition is therefore very important, and the leadership is debating how best to conduct itself now that it is in the ascendant. Yesterday, David Brooks suggested that sombre compromise will win out. On the basis on what Republican leaders and strategists have said
overnight, it was a good call. There was not a whiff of triumphalism from John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House and face of Republican opposition, who sang the familiar refrain of ‘new
politics’, preparing himself for what is being called ‘Boehner’s Burden‘. And John Reeve, a chief G.O.P. strategist,
told the Today programme that the party would show its ‘sobre face to tread a difficult path, placating the party’s base while appealing to general America.’
Last night was a disaster for the President, but all is far from lost – not least because now he shares responsibility with the Republicans. American commentators are clear that Obama will
recover if he is half the horse-trader and strategist that he is electioneer.