West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told TIME Thursday that President Barack Obama has lost his emotional connection with the American people.

“There’s an old saying my grandmother would say, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,” he said in a phone interview. “And the President is bright and very articulate and speaks very well. People just don’t believe he cares. That’s the disconnect that I’m seeing.”

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From all appearances Wednesday, the president won’t change—not his policies, not his style, not his staff, not nothing

The results were not a referendum on the GOP as much as they were a repudiation of Washington, the two-party system, status-quo politics, and Obama himself. Rather than face the latter verdict, Obama seized the former and said, “The most important thing I can do is get stuff done.”

That would be nice, but how are things going to get done with no changes at the White House? Obama suggested that because the House and Senate are now controlled by a single party, Republicans might be emboldened to pass legislation he deems worthy. He said he is open to hearing what the GOP offers in the way of potential compromises—then quickly added, “Now, that isn’t a change.”

Right—no change at all, which makes me wonder whether he was listening.

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I wonder if Obama even knows how to negotiate with Republicans.  It’s not as if he has a long, distinguished record of passing legislation in a mixed environment.  His later years in the Illinois State Senate enjoyed a solid Democratic majority, and he jumped into the U.S. Senate at a propitious time. Soon after he arrived came the wave of 2006, when Democrats controlled both houses of congress by comfortable margins, and Senator Obama was far too junior to be negotiating with the White House.  Then came the financial crisis, and another wave, and Obama spent the first two years of his presidency in a happy situation where he could get things done without needing the support of the opposition.  He didn’t even negotiate with his own party; the Senate negotiated his health care bill, and Nancy Pelosi whipped it through the House…

 It’s a little late in the president’s career to learn the fine art of making deals with people who fundamentally disagree with you, but might be willing to work on whatever small goals you might share.  I suspect it feels more comfortable to go along with the strategy that has worked decently well over the last four years: hold your ground, complain about Republican intransigence, and hope that Republican legislators give you another opportunity to play long-suffering adult in the room.

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You’ll notice that none of these nuggets gets us into the psyche of the Stranger in Chief. Mr. Todd does offer up some tantalizing thoughts on the subject. He tells us that Mr. Obama’s former colleagues in the Senate believe that things had always come too easily for the one-term Illinois senator—and that for this reason they prefer to deal with Vice President Joe Biden , a war-scarred politico who can “actually understand their frustrations.” (The most revealing passages in “The Stranger” concern Mr. Obama’s more transparent vice president, whose affability is so reflexive that when the White House patched him into the phone of a different senator than the one he intended to speak with, he simply made a new friend. Mr. Biden, Mr. Todd reports, finds his boss to be thin-skinned.) On the House side, the author observes that Mr. Obama’s relationship with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suffered because he “had few ties to Pelosi”—which of course raises the question: Then why didn’t the nation’s top Democrat set out to develop some ties?…

To that nagging question about how someone so intellectually advanced could be so politically stunted, the author’s final answer is that Barack Obama’s “arrogance got the better of him.” As a novel twist on this familiar theme, Mr. Todd theorizes that Mr. Obama’s happy experience as editor of the Harvard Law Review “gave him a false self-confidence that burns in him—and burns him—to this day.” At the same time, the author seems to be suggesting that where Mr. Obama’s cockiness ends an overabundance of caution takes over—especially true when dealing with any issue like guns, gays or race that might offend working-class voters. In such instances, Mr. Todd reports that Mr. Obama insists to the fretful idealists in his administration, “I’m enough change.” This rather remarkable assertion by our first black president comes off as simultaneously haughty and defensive. It may also be entirely accurate.

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A Democratic Party that rode the Obama wave to historic congressional majorities is now saddled with a president who was the hot new thing six years ago. Its agenda tends to be picayune or pointless, and its new generation of leadership is the same as the old generation of leadership.

As much as an indictment of President Barack Obama’s governance, the midterms were a commentary on the exhaustion of the Democrats in the late Obama years.

Obama gives every impression of believing if he had been given the opportunity to barnstorm around the country giving the same speech outlining the same laundry list of old chestnuts — the minimum wage, green energy, infrastructure — it might have turned out differently…

The lesson of 2014 is that Obama Democrats are played out, and the mantle of the party of change and new ideas is there for the GOP’s taking.

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We know Barack Obama is good at least one thing: getting Barack Obama elected president of the United States. How good he is at being president of the United States is a subject of considerable debate. A less debatable proposition: He is just plain awful at running a political party

In Tuesday’s wake, any talk of an Obama-fueled realignment seems delusional. Young voters have soured on the president. Hispanics didn’t show up. Contrary to a lot of spinning early on Election Night, this wasn’t an “anti-incumbent wave”; it was an anti-Democratic, or more properly, an anti-Obama wave. The GOP captured Senate seats in Iowa and Colorado, each of which voted for Obama twice. The governor’s race in deep-blue Maryland, where Obama campaigned, went to the Republican, as did Obama’s home state of Illinois and liberal Massachusetts. Incumbent Republicans triumphed almost everywhere, while incumbent Democrats lost almost everywhere.

When the next Senate convenes, 25 more Democrats who voted for Obamacare will be gone, and the GOP’s majority in the House will be so big and solid that NBC’s Chuck Todd says Democrats won’t be able to recapture it until at least 2022.

But Obama is still the president, which is apparently all he ever cared about.

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Democratic territory has been reduced to the bastions of two core groups — black voters and gentry liberals. Democrats win New York City and the San Francisco Bay area by overwhelming margins but are outvoted in almost all the territory in between — including, this year, Obama’s Illinois. Governor Jerry Brown ran well behind in California’s Central Valley, and Governor Andrew Cuomo lost most of upstate New York.

Democratic margins have shrunk among Hispanics and, almost to the vanishing point, among young voters. Liberal Democrats raised money to “turn Texas blue.” But it voted Republican by wider-than-usual margins this year.

Under Obama, the Democratic base has shrunk numerically and demographically. With superior organization, he was able to stitch together a 51 percent majority in 2012. But like other Democratic majority coalitions — Woodrow Wilson’s, Lyndon Johnson’s, even Franklin Roosevelt’s — it has proved to be fragile and subject to fragmentation.

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For Obama, there have been two convincing presidential victories; for the Democratic Party, electoral ruin at every other level. On Tuesday (assuming the most likely final outcome), the largest Democratic Senate losses since 1980. The ranks of moderate Democrats — including Mark Pryor, Mark Begich, Kay Hagan and (probably) Mary Landrieu — decimated. During Obama’s presidency, the loss of nearly 70 House seats, producing the largest Republican majority since 1931. The near-extinction of the Democratic Party in the South, including in Arkansas and Tennessee, which provided the party’s national ticket in 1992 and 1996. Full Republican control of 29 state legislatures, the highest total since the 1920s, and Republican governors in 32 states, including Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland…

To be a national party, Democrats need to contend for rural and small-town voters, for older voters, for working-class white voters, for white Catholics, even for suburban evangelicals. This requires not just a populist economic message (which is important) but the recognition of a set of values — a predisposition toward social order, family and faith — that is foreign to most liberal bloggers and Democratic strategists…

It is possible for progressives to admire Obama for his courage — in passing Obamacare on a party line, in insisting that Catholic institutions facilitate contraceptive coverage, now in promising an executive “amnesty” before the end of the year. He is a leader intent on shaping events, while almost entirely (on recent evidence) unshaped by them. Some will applaud.

But it is impossible to make the case that Obama has been an inclusive or unifying leader. He has left his party more ideologically and geographically uniform. He has left a riven society and political culture. And these should also be counted as Obama’s gifts.

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In 2014, the Clintons couldn’t stop the bleeding. Republicans won the white working class by 30 points. And it will be difficult for Hillary Clinton to reduce this deficit over the next two years.

That is because of her problematic position as heir apparent to an unpopular incumbent. Her recent talk of businesses and corporations not creating jobs illustrates the dilemma: She has to identify herself with her husband’s legacy in Elizabeth Warren’s left-wing Democratic Party, while dissociating herself with the repudiated policies of the president she served as secretary of State. Has Clinton ever demonstrated the political skill necessary to pull off such a trick?…

The McCain-Clinton comparison is worth considering. Both would be among the oldest presidents in American history. Both are slightly at odds with their party: McCain on campaign finance and immigration, Clinton on corporatism and foreign policy. Both lost the nomination to the presidents they sought to replace. Both campaigned for rare third consecutive presidential terms for their parties in the cycle after those parties lost Congress…

I do know this: Whatever voters are upset about two years from now, they are unlikely to hold it against John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. They are more likely to direct their ire at the president and his party: Hillary Clinton’s party.

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GOP adviser Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said the notion that an all-Republican Congress is good for Clinton will not bear out.

“I don’t buy it,” he said, because Congress will pass legislation that Obama will then veto, and that will not leave Clinton much running room. “What’s she going to say? ‘I would have vetoed it, too, so I’m going to be the third term of Barack Obama’?

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Essentially, our last three presidents were all elected on the vague premise that they were alien beings in entrenched Washington and would reform the way things worked there, principally by transcending partisan and ideological divides. In each case, the new president, running headlong into strident opposition on one side and unreasonable expectations on the other, soon enough became a symbol of the same old partisan divide against which he had campaigned.

By the time each man ran for re-election, he had all but abandoned any grand notions of reform — whether by choice or not — in favor of a more traditional, less ennobling kind of political calculus. None of the three were able to achieve anything significant in their second terms and, in fact, could point only to big legislation passed in the first quarter of their presidencies…

For 20-plus years now, spanning these last three presidencies, we have lived with what has often been called the “permanent campaign.” What that means, essentially, is that our leaders are perpetually running for office and thinking about how to run for office, even in years when they aren’t actually running for anything, but they don’t spend a fraction of that time strategizing about how they will govern differently and effectively. They maintain armies of celebrity sloganeers and organizers, but if you can name a single policy director in any of our last presidential campaigns, you’re way ahead of most political pros…

[H]ere’s what the country could stand to avoid: a fourth straight president who glides into office with solid majorities and big imagery, and who leaves town, eight years later, having merely managed to survive.