How Barack Obama Became a Republican

The Tea Party now dominates the GOP, but its members are in for a surprise. It will be harder than they think to go to Obama's right because so far, he's governing a lot like an old-school Republican.

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Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (Brendan Smialowski/Getty)

On their way to wresting control of the House of Representatives and consolidating their ranks in the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s midterm elections, conservative Republicans managed to turn a self-described former witch into a "constitutional conservative" while calling Barack Obama -- a former constitutional lawyer -- an enemy of the Constitution.

They got indignant when Obama changed the game plan for a war that they couldn’t finish, and when he appointed a Latina to the Supreme Court with a résumé tailor-made for the highest court in the land, they said she wasn't qualified.

But the neatest trick that the Tea Party-infused GOP pulled off was convincing voters that President Obama was a closet socialist for taking measures that almost any Republican president from the last century would have co-signed. If you're in the Obama-equals-socialist camp, that might sound ridiculous, but here's a thought:

Obama might really be a Republican.

He's the remaining heir in a long line of low-boil "Rockefeller" Republicans, and with a new Congress shifting hard right and promising to cut the federal government to the bone, he might wind up as the last president that the old Grand Old Party has.

That Obama is, in fact, a Democrat says less about him than it does about the odds that in the last half century, a black multimillionaire with a young family would seek (or find) a political home in the GOP. Even the two new black Republicans in the House can credit Obama's ascendancy for opening up their window of opportunity.

If Obama is a socialist, then so are a bunch of his GOP predecessors, and maybe one or two of his potential Republican successors. If he actually was in the GOP, conservatives would call Obama the same thing they now call the Bushes and McCains of the world: RINOs -- Republicans in name only.

And Obama lived up to that charge by playing to type. While he was busy governing, he left voters in middle America to conclude that he was the pensive arugula-eating, corndog-eschewing Harvard elitist they'd heard about. His political challenge going forward will be shedding his restrained "change" image and matching up a little more closely with his flagrantly "same" public-policy choices:

The Dow

You've heard that Obama is anti-business, right? But the Dow was down near 7,000 in Obama's first 100 days, and it's been above 10,000 for more than a year. Your job might not be secure, but your company's CEO and your broker are secretly a lot happier that Sen. Obama voted for George W. Bush's TARP plan and carried it out as president.