MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We're sure you know this by now, but just in case, President Obama won reelection and will serve a second term in office.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I believe we can seize this future together, because we are not as divided as our politics suggest. We are not cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.
MARTIN: It was a more decisive victory than many, if not most, of the analysts were predicting with President Obama winning a clear margin in the popular and a landslide in the electoral vote. Throughout this hour, we are going to talk about this from a variety of perspectives, hearing from many of the diverse voices who've joined us throughout the year.
In a few minutes, for example, we will hear from our former presidential speechwriters to talk about the style and substance of the campaigns' messages. We want to start, though, with two of our most trusted political analysts, both former White House aides. Corey Ealons is a former communications advisor in the Obama administration. He's currently a senior vice president with the communications firm VOX Global.
Ron Christie is a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush. He's now the president of Christie Strategies, a media and political strategy firm.
Welcome back to you both. Thank you both so much for joining us.
COREY EALONS: Always good to be here.
RON CHRISTIE: Always a pleasure.
MARTIN: The first question is to both of you, but I'm going to start with Corey Ealons, because, you know, to the victor go the spoils. Did President Obama win, or did Mitt Romney lose?
EALONS: No, President Obama definitely won last night. And if you take a look at the machinery that was put in place, the message, as it developed, and the money, as it was allocated, you have to give this as a sincere, concrete victory to the president. To say nothing of the fact that we are still in an economy that's struggling, that we are still in a - have an unemployment situation that is just below 8 percent. It is historic, the headwinds that he had to go into in this election and still come out on top. When you look at it from that perspective, he won.
MARTIN: And what was the critical factor in his victory?
EALONS: I think the critical factor was the voter targeting. These folks - last night, the president said very clearly: I have the best campaign in the history of campaigns. And he was exactly right about that. The ability of these folks to go in, identify voters, educate voters and mobilize voters is unprecedented. And when you look at the fact that he maintained the map that he had in 2008 - save but for North Carolina and Indiana - that says it all right there.
MARTIN: And we heard from President Obama in his victory speech, so I want to spend a minute to hear a little bit from Mitt Romney. And, you know, some Republican observers were predicting a win for Mr. Romney, or at least a photo-finish, but that's not what happened. We'll play a short clip from Governor Romney's concession speech, which was early this morning.
MITT ROMNEY: And we look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics. I believe in America. I believe in the people of America.
MARTIN: Ron, same question: Did the president win, or did Mitt Romney lose?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think the president won last night, but I just deplore the way that he won. He was the candidate of hope and change four years ago. He was such a dynamic figure, and he said he was going to bring the country together and it was not going to be about divisiveness. I think this is the most divisive political campaign we've seen, certainly in my lifetime.
The president went out and sought to scare voters, scare women, saying there was a war on women, to scare people of color, saying that there was an effort to suppress the vote, and to tell people that the Republicans were going to be a bad brand, and you needed to stick with him.
So I don't think he had an optimistic campaign. I don't think he articulated a clear message as to why he deserved a second term. I just think he told people: You better stick with me, because look at all those bad Republicans and what they'll do.
MARTIN: Is there something Mr. Romney could have done differently, if you were advising him? Which you probably were, you know, at some level.
CHRISTIE: In some way, shape or form. Yes.
MARTIN: In some way, shape or form.
MARTIN: Is there advice that you gave that they did not take? Or is there advice that you wish they had embraced more wholeheartedly?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think, as Republicans, you know, the thing that disturbs me the most about our nominating process is that as a Republican, to make it through the process, you have to tack so far to the right. Politics is about addition rather than subtraction. If you go so far to the right and to appease a certain element of the base, and then tack back to the center and say, now this is my message, I think it opens you up to the charges of inauthenticity(ph) that Governor Romney faced, and I think it makes it very difficult to win. So Republicans need to do a lot of navel gazing and say: Is this what we want to do? Are we going to continue to lose if we continue to put our candidates through this process?
MARTIN: We're catching up on the latest political news with former Bush administration advisor Ron Christie and former White House advisor - Obama White House advisor - Corey Ealons. And, of course, we're talking about yesterday's election news.
You know, Corey Ealons, you know, Republicans still control the House. House Republicans resisted much of the president's first term agenda.
Democrats have, you know, expanded their presence in the Senate, but Republican leaders are saying that the president does not have a mandate to go forward, particularly on some of these, you know, fiscal issues. How does the president address that? What does he do? What does he have to do to get cooperation and get something done - particularly given, as Ron Christie just said, that there is this sort of aura of divisiveness?
There is, at least - you know, whether you buy into that perspective and you want to blame who for the divisiveness, there is this sense that it is clearly the case that the president has not managed to bring the parties together on some of these critical issues.
EALONS: Well, it is certainly true that we have more of the same government today than we had yesterday. We have more Democrats in the Senate. We have more Republicans in the House, and we still have the same guy in the Oval Office. I think what was talked about when this question was posed before the election is hopefully, after November 6th, we can put the politics aside and we can begin, as a government, to focus on the critical issues facing the country.
Here's the issue: People talk about whether the president or whether Congress has a mandate. There is no mandate. Let's be very clear about that. The election is 49/49. Let's kick the Electoral College out, because those folks don't matter. What matters are real people who voted. 49/49 is not a mandate.
But what the president does have is a historical mandate. He, as the first two-time African-American president coming into this, he has the ability, I think, to transition and become the president that he has always wanted to be. He wasn't able to do that during the first term. I think he will be able to tack further to the center and by doing so...
MARTIN: Why? Why?
EALONS: I think that's just his very nature. I think that's who he is, and I think that's the type of leader he wants to be: someone who can see a good conservative idea and embrace that and bring it into the fold, who can also continue to embrace his Democratic and progressive brethren and bring their ideas into the fold. This...
MARTIN: But what conditions make that possible, if they weren't possible in the first term when there was such an aura, even if not, you know, just cultural? There was a cultural aura around this. I mean, didn't he get one out of five Republicans to vote for him last time?
EALONS: Well, very true, but here's what I would say to that: Again, we're talking about what we hope for. And again, I think the president, not having to face reelection again, is someone who can more easily get there. John Boehner, too, someone who wants to get there. What's happening in the Senate? We'll have to see with Mitch McConnell.
MARTIN: I have to ask each of you in the time we have left, and I'm saving some minutes for this, because I want to give you a chance to think this through. I just want to ask each of you: You're both distinguished African-American men from different political parties - some things in common, some things that are different. Certainly, you have different politics. What about this kind of aura of division?
You know, we saw - you know, the truth is, you know, President Obama, in the last election, did not win a majority of the white vote, but his share of the white vote dropped from 43 percent to 39 percent this year. That was negated by the fact that more people of color did come out. The fact is the president won a majority of not just African-Americans - I know that's the storyline - but also Latino-Americans and Asian-Americans.
Now, I wanted to ask each of you: What does this mean? Is it just a matter of - is race a proxy for other issues, economic issues? Or is this worrisome? Is there something here that we need to talk about and think about? And Ron, I'll give you the first word on that.
CHRISTIE: I'm worried. Again, I don't think I've seen our country as divided along racial lines and along class lines that we've seen in my lifetime. And I don't really know the root cause of it. Obviously, the president is black, and I think there could be a racial element to it. But I think America is now becoming a country of two Americas, based on class: Those who are in the middle and upper-middle class, and those who are not. And I worry about the fact that you have nearly half of the folks in the United States who are receiving some form of a payment from the government. And I think that it really sets up a system of class envy and one where people feel divided, and I don't know how we bridge that gap.
But Republicans and Democrats have to recognize that they're Americans first, and there are people who need help and there are people who need a safety net. But we have got to move away from a system of you've got something, so I'm going to be bitter against you or feel envious of you and resent you for it. And instead, we need to move forward together as Americans. And I hope the president and this Congress can set us in the right direction.
EALONS: I agree with the conclusion that Ron comes to there, that they can come together on this. But the reason it's happening, you have to take a look at. We have a browning of America that's happening right now. The demographics are shaping and changing before our very eyes. And I think that, ultimately, you have two parties, one that is speaking to the broader interests of the American people that is in inclusive, that includes black and brown people across this country, and you have one that is not.
Mitt Romney went out of his way during the primaries to alienate everyone who was not a white male in this country, and that is a real problem - not just for the Republican Party, but that's a problem for our politics if they become more defined along racial lines. We will not come together and solve the big problems that we need to in this country. So, yes, it is absolutely something that we need to discuss. And the white president and the - I'm sorry, the black president and the white leader of the House and the white leaders of the Senate need to come together and have that conversation.
MARTIN: What's the first thing that the president should do on day one? I know I'm giving you a tall order here of instruction, but...
EALONS: Well, whatever it is, it's...
MARTIN: What's the first thing? What's the thing he needs to do on day one?
EALONS: Whatever it is, it's already been done. But day one after the inauguration, he needs to - really, today, he needs to pick up the phone. He needs to call John Boehner. He needs to invite them to go to some neutral location, and they need to talk about what's happening - first, with the fiscal cliff, and then how are we going to get the big ticket issues dealt with that we need to? Tax reform and entitlement reform, all of these things that are hanging over the American people that have been longstanding. So that's the first thing.
And then, after that, it's about getting your teams together to begin exercising these issues, point-by-point.
MARTIN: Ron Christie, what's the first thing that the president needs to do on day one?
CHRISTIE: I think day one is today, and I think the first thing the president needs to do is hold a press conference and be held accountable to the American people to not only discuss what he believes his victory means, but also to answer a lot of remaining questions that people have.
What happens with our ambassador in our consulate in Benghazi? Why is it that the president hasn't addressed the American people since July formally in a press conference? There are a lot of questions that we need to have answered about the fiscal cliff that Corey mentions, and a lot of the things that we're worried about from a fiscal standpoint, from a national security standpoint. And we want to know from him how he intends to govern with a divided Congress.
MARTIN: Well, more to come. Thank you both so much for your commentary throughout this election season. Thank you so much for your civil commentary that also is a model for, you know, appropriate discourse, and we thank you so much for that, because some of that is sorely lacking in some of our, you know, media and public discussions. So thank you for that.
Corey Ealons is a former Obama White House communications advisor and is currently a senior vice president with the strategic communications firm VOX Global. Ron Christie is the founder and president of Christie Strategies, a media and political strategy firm, and a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, both here with us in Washington, D.C.
Gentlemen, thank you both so much.
CHRISTIE: A pleasure.
EALONS: Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: Coming up, we'll get the final word on campaign messaging and rhetoric with two former White House speechwriters, and we'll focus on the international reaction to President Obama's victory. Please, stay with us. This is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.