The exit polls suggest that, if we accept the 2010 election as a referendum on Obama, then the president lost none of his core support groups except women who voted about evenly for Democrats and Republicans. Other constituencies like progressives, minorities, young people and LGBT supported Democrats. The problem is that many of these folk simply did not show up to vote. That would not be so bad if the turnout was low compared to the 2008 election since mid-terms generally create less excitement than presidential elections. However, the turnout was even low compared to the 2006 mid-terms.
Energizing the base
The GOP and Tea Party took a page out to the Democrat's 2008 strategy and made a great effort to field diverse candidates in 2010. You can rest assured that the unusually large number of Republican women and minority candidates did not just appear coincidentally.
One reason, I think, that the women's vote shifted more toward the Republicans is the large number of prominent women candidates fielded by that party. They were all over the news even if not always portrayed in a positive light. While these women could not hope to attractive progressive women voters due to their often very conservative viewpoints, they might have had an impact on moderate and independent women voters.
Democrats will have to do a better job at this nationwide in 2012. In California, Dems swept the statewide offices and picked up one state assembly seat while successfully preventing any GOP pickups in the state senate or US House. Here, Sen. Barbara Boxer and state Attorney General-elect Kamala Harris were among the most prominent candidates. Boxer additionally is of Jewish descent, while Harris becomes, at the same time, the first woman, African American, Asian American and Indo-American attorney general in California. Additionally there were other winning statewide candidates like Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Controller John Chiang. The candidates for the both chambers of the state legislature were highly diverse.
Rather than relying on Barack Obama alone to energize voters and volunteers, the Democrats should groom attractive candidates at all levels -- candidates that represent the change that voters are looking for.
A good turnout of Obama's core constituencies in urban areas like Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami and Las Vegas may be enough to get the necessary electoral votes. However, the urban vote may not be enough to defend the Senate or to win back the House.
Right now, it's difficult to say whether Obama's coattails will help carry Democrats in heavily-independent areas. Many parts of the country have gone red to the core with GOP state legislatures in addition to the congressional caucuses. So if things aren't quite what they would like in 2012, there may be some backlash against the Republicans in these states, or at least the GOP may be held equally responsible for the state of affairs.
However, Democrats would be wise to at least try and win back the women's vote in 2012. Again, they can do this by putting forth exciting women candidates. They should also attempt to convince women in the administration like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Tammy Duckworth to get out on the campaign trail.
Winning the media battle
After the 2008 election, the Tea Party grabbed the media spotlight and did not let go. At best the Democrats came back only in the last few months of the 2010 campaign.
By that time, many people had already been soured by Tea Party and GOP disinformation. The president needs to get into the role of theater politician and work the media to the fullest. He should also concentrate on minority, special interest and other small media outlets in the same way he did during 2008.
In addition, high profile officials like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden should also work the media extensively. First Lady Michelle Obama is already a media star and hopefully she will continue to help Democrats by playing a key role in interfacing with the public.
Rebuilding the Obama army
Many young people who worked for the president in 2008 were cut loose after the election and were disappointed to see the administration filled up with old faces.
While there was an argument for bringing in experience, many were expecting the administration to be dominated by new "change" people.
President Obama can still fill up his White House team, despite GOP obstructionism, by making abundant recess appointments all the way until 2012.
Democrats will need to rebuild linkages with existing networks. For example, during 2008 the campaign did great work in reaching out to African American churches. Students for Obama was a self-organized group that was part of the draft Obama movement and did much-needed work in getting out the youth vote. When it was learned that elderly Jews in Florida were not sure about the candidate from Illinois, a large number of young Jews undertook the "Great Schlep" to convince them they could trust Obama.
Working with existing networks and organizations was a hallmark of the Obama campaign.
Democrats will need to fight for the issues that got them elected in 2008. They can no longer allow themselves to stumble around GOP obstacles. The public expects them to show leadership and make the necessary adjustments in their governing strategy to get things done.