By MARK PENN
November 15, 2010

The midterms not only dealt a big shock to Democrats but also sent a message to President Barack Obama. According to the new POLITICO Power and the People poll, only 26 percent of the public believes he will be reelected as president in 2012. Inside the Beltway, however, expectations are quite different, with D.C. elites saying he will have a second term by a reverse 2 to 1 margin. (49 percent say re-elected; 23 percent say not).

This difference in expectations could mislead the president if he is listening to the Beltway chatter — right here in D.C., he may just find a lot of comfort in this assessment by insiders, and that may lead to actions that don’t fully adjust for the sea change that has occurred among the general public. (See also Poll: D.C. Sees Midterms Differently)

This big difference can partially be explained by the different ways that the two groups see the economy and the world today. Seventy percent of D.C. elites admit that they have been affected less than the average citizen when it comes to the economic downturn. The elites see the tea party as purely a fad (70 percent). In contrast, those who say that the president will not be reelected see the country as headed in the wrong direction by 82 percent, see the economy as headed in the wrong direction by 81 percent and overwhelmingly want repeal of the health care law at the top of the agenda. The quarter of the public who consider Obama’s reelection probable see the economy turning around by nearly 3-to-1. They are the outliers of the electorate, suggesting that the president has a lot more work to do to get back on track for a second term.

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