Obama Interprets the Election

Earlier this afternoon, I flagged the divergent analyses of the Massachusetts Senate election offered by John Judis and John Sides. The president has now spoken, and he seems to be embracing Judis’s critique. From The New York Times:

The president said in the television interview that he misjudged popular concern over the health care bill and other policy decisions, and that he had failed to communicate the reason for the policies to voters.

“I think, you know, what they ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment, where there’s these technocrats up here making decisions,” Mr. Obama said. “Maybe some of them are good, maybe some of them aren’t, but do they really get us and what we’re going through?”

“That I do think is a mistake of mine,” he continued. “I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on this provision or that law or if we’re making a good rational decision here, then people will get it.”

As Brendan Nyhan noted today, what matters is not so much the “message” that Bay State voters were sending as the interpretation that key political actors—in particular Democrats, who still hold the White House and congressional majorities—assign to the result. With Obama embracing this frame, it’s likely to become conventional wisdom soon, if it isn’t already.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.