Memo to Incumbents: Tread Lightly -- Voters: Independents still hold key, and may be in the mood to get rid of all incumbents. (Charlie Cook, National Journal/Charlie Cook's Off to the Races)
...[A]nother way of viewing 2012 might be that each party may face a different challenge. For Republicans, it is the growing perception among independent voters that the GOP is too partisan and too ideologically inflexible, and that these traits are hurting the country. Republicans forget that the 2010 election was more about voters, particularly independent voters, who were unimpressed and skeptical of the economic stimulus, cap-and-trade, and health care reform. Voters were angry at Democrats; they didn’t vote for any GOP agenda that was concocted after the fact.
One of the biggest mistakes parties make is to think they had a mandate when they didn’t.
Republicans had no more mandate in 2010 than Democrats did in 2006 or 2008. In each case, voters were lashing out at a party they were mad at, not embracing some agenda. Ex post facto mandates are crippling to parties but they still try to convince themselves that they were selected rather than the other party rejected. With independents closing in on 40 percent of a presidential electorate, this is a real problem for the GOP...