Year After Obama's Victory, More 'Change' in Air

President's stalled agenda and a skeptical public could be a boon for GOP.

ByABC News
November 4, 2009, 1:06 PM

Nov. 4, 2009— -- Last November, Americans flocked to the polls to vote for change.

A year later, change again drove voters on an Election Day -- with much different results.

The same dynamics that powered President Obama to victory -- frustration with the status quo, economic anxieties, hope that new leadership can bring answers -- now stand as the biggest threats to the Democrats' governing agenda.

One year after Obama's resounding victory, the soaring rhetoric of campaigning has given way to the trench warfare of governing in a polarized country. The president's agenda is now backed up behind a stalled health care bill, even as the calendar prepares to flip into a congressional election year.

Yesterday's election results bring the president's obstacles into harsh focus: All three marquee races on the ballot resulted in party switches. The lesson: Change cuts in at least two directions.

"Anger is far more motivating than satisfaction," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. "People were hopeful for change; now they're driving change."

In Tuesday's two-state governor races, independent voters who were critical to the president's winning coalition in 2008 favored Republican candidates by a 2-1 margin. And economic unease -- again, a key factor in Obama's victory -- was foremost on voters' minds, according to exit polls in New Jersey and Virginia.

The mistrust of government Obama capitalized on has only worsened over the past year. Bailouts and stimulus spending may have stopped the economy from collapsing, but voters remain unconvinced -- if not downright angry -- about the nation's economic prospects.

Those factors complicate the president's attempts to enact his ambitious agenda, which -- like most government initiatives -- require money to work.