A poll commissioned by Third Way, a moderate Democratic group, found that the coalition that elected Obama overwhelmingly backs a compromise that would include entitlement reform, a third rail that Democrats have long avoided touching.

The numbers reflect a new awareness even among liberals that the programs they feel are essential must be part of any grand compromise reached by Obama and the Republicans. Eighty-three percent of Obama voters say that reducing the deficit must be an important priority, and 79 percent say it would be better for Congress to address Social Security and Medicare than to do nothing.

Only 39 percent of Obama voters are concerned that the president will compromise too much with Republicans, which gives the president more flexibility from the voters than he is getting from the interest groups that represent them in Washington. The voters got the message that compromise is essential, but in Washington, the election results are being read by many Democrats as evidence that Obama should hold firm and resist any meaningful changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid…

“I could be hallucinating,” Kessler concedes, but he finds the Democratic caucus moving toward acceptance of changes in the programs they hold dear, bolstered by an increase in moderate New Democrats. They went from 42 before the election to over 50, making them a quarter of the caucus and a potentially decisive voting bloc.