How he can salvage his final two years after losing the Senate.
The Wall Street Journal

On the night of his 2012 re-election triumph, following his victory speech, President Obama walked off the stage and made separate phone calls to Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic campaign chairman Steve Israel . He told them he would spend the next two years helping Democrats retake the House in 2014, and he pledged to raise $50 million and devote his 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina to the task.

Two years later we know how that turned out. The Republicans on Tuesday defeated at least four incumbents to take control of the Senate and are adding to their majority in the House. Add the GOP sweep of most of the close races for Governor, including in states Mr. Obama won twice, and the vote is a major repudiation of the President’s governance.

That 2012 episode, reported at the time by the Washington Post, speaks volumes about the reason. Mr. Obama has consistently put liberal policy demands and partisanship above the goals of economic growth and compromise. Far from cementing a Democratic majority, his political posture has helped the GOP make a comeback. The question now is whether he will change enough to salvage his last two years as President.

Liberals are busy discounting Tuesday’s results as meaningless, a “Seinfeld” election about nothing, and it’s true that Republicans failed to offer much of a unified policy agenda. Yet the one issue that has been on the ballot everywhere this year is President Obama and his record.

The main common Republican theme has been linking incumbent Democrats to Mr. Obama and his 42% approval rating. In left-leaning Colorado they have moved the polls by charging that Mark Udall had voted with the President “99% of the time,” and in other states it was 96% or 98%. Mr. Udall lost.

Those Democrats in turn studiously avoided appearing with Mr. Obama, much less having him campaign for them, and the Senate challenger in Kentucky famously wouldn’t even say if she’d voted for him. Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn identified herself explicitly with George H.W. Bush. Mr. Obama was consigned to campaigning in heavily Democratic states, like Maryland.

Democratic incumbents claimed their votes for the President’s agenda were mostly “procedural,” but the problem is that all of them were with the White House on every vote that mattered. Each of them provided the last “aye” to get ObamaCare through the Senate. Most Democrats barely defended ObamaCare while promising vaguely to fix it, and GOP Senate candidates ran more ads against ObamaCare in October than on any other issue, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.

The GOP’s Senate sweep is especially impressive when you consider that they held all of their current seats, and they picked up Democratic seats in two states, Colorado and Iowa, that Mr. Obama carried twice. The last time the GOP defeated more than two Senate Democratic incumbents was in 1980. Majority Leader Harry Reid ’s strategy of shutting down the Senate stands repudiated.

The GOP also added to their House ranks, with a chance to have the largest Republican majority since the 1950s, and maybe the 1920s (if they hit 247 with a gain of 14 or more). That would be a cushion against potential losses in 2016 and give Speaker John Boehner more policy running room. After losing 63 seats in 2010, Mr. Obama appears to have lost more House seats for his party in midterm elections than any President since Eisenhower, who lost 66 in 1954 (18) and 1958 (48).

And flying below media radar, the GOP could add to its already large advantage in state legislatures—the building blocks of policy experimentation and future candidates for Congress. So much for Mr. Obama’s ambition to be the liberal Reagan.

***

The liberals who have cheered on Mr. Obama as he drove his party into this ditch are now advising that he should double down on partisanship. Veto everything. Rule by regulation, including a vast immigration diktat that would poison any chance of bipartisan and thus politically durable reform. Demonize Republicans at every opportunity to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016.

If we judge by Mr. Obama’s six-year record, that is what he will probably do. But there is a better way that would do more for the country and his own legacy. Start by recognizing that many Republicans want to do more than merely oppose him. They know their own political brand needs burnishing, and that even their most intense partisans want some results from electing Republicans.

Above all that should mean focusing on measures to lift the economy out of the 2% growth trap of the Obama years. We offered this same advice in 2012, pointing to the way rapid growth had helped Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan survive the traumas of their second terms.

Mr. Obama preferred the partisan satisfaction of forcing Republicans to swallow a tax increase, and he has insisted on $1 trillion more as his price for any entitlement reforms. He has preferred gridlock to ending automatic defense spending cuts. The result: Slow growth and falling incomes for all but the wealthy. This is not a legacy a liberal President wants to leave.

The way to avoid it is to work with Republicans in Congress on pro-growth policies. Several could be quick and easy victories. Repeal the medical-devices tax and fix ObamaCare’s bias against hiring full-time employees. Pass fast-track trade authority and the pan-Pacific trade pact. Liberate energy production and export. Trade more defense spending for more dollars for roads.

Immigration and tax reform would take more time, but both are also possible if Mr. Obama is willing to share credit and settle for less than everything he wants. The realist in us doesn’t expect he’ll take any of this advice, but it’s the only way he’ll revive his broken Presidency.