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Mark R. Kennedy Headshot

7 Election Takeaways

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1. The United States remains a divided nation. Just a few percentage points separate those who supported Barack Obama and those who supported Mitt Romney nationally and in key swing states.

2. They don't care what you know until they know you care. As the Wall Street Journal is now observing and I opined in August, the decisive factor in the campaign was Romney's failure to connect with voters in a personal way early on in the campaign. This created a vacuum that the Obama campaign filled by defining Romney as an uncaring billionaire.

3. Demographics is destiny. The Republican Party must aggressively seek out the Hispanic vote if it is to be competitive in future national elections. There will be much soul-searching in the GOP and people calling for change in many directions. This essential change in approach must be embraced.

4. There's such a thing as too much tea. The Tea Party energizing Republican campaigns has resulted in many victories. But the Tea Party as the face of the Republican Party has resulted in key Senate losses two elections in a row.

5. Competing mandates. Just as President Obama feels he has a mandate, so too do the former Tea Party-inspired congressional freshman. They now are more powerful and entrenched sophomores. They believe their voters reaffirmed their strategy of opposing Obama's efforts to increase taxes.

6. The "fiscal cliff" looms. Last night's victors can celebrate for a day or two, but they must immediately turn their attention to the fiscal cliff that, left unaddressed, can be disastrous for this country. The Tea Party sophomores rightly will not allow the can to be kicked down the road without a resolution regarding long-term deficit reduction. Now is the time for a grand bargain.

7. The president must lead. The elephant in the room is that Republicans will not agree to a revenue increase without real reform in entitlements. It is the role of the president -- particularly a lame duck president -- to take the lead and put a concrete proposal on the table. Demonizing your enemies may win you reelection, but it leaves the country no better off. The future of the country depends on President Obama not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

Mark R. Kennedy leads George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management and is Chairman of the Economic Club of Minnesota. He previously served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was Senior Vice President and Treasurer of Federated Department Stores (now Macy's).