Despite an election cycle that saw the rise of a largely uncompromising Tea Party movement, Republican pollster Bill McInturff said the real lesson of the 2010 midterms is that voters want to see both parties come together in Washington.
"Every party likes to believe it's been handed the keys to the kingdom," McInturff said Thursday at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. "We should have learned by now, that's not what Americans mean."
The Republican, who worked on Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential run, said the American electorate has grown increasingly volatile and disillusioned with both parties over the past decade and a half, despite Tuesday's results.
He noted that since Republicans took control of the House in 1994 after 40 years of Democrat rule, the majority changed hands again in just 12 years and yet again in just four.
"This is pretty transitory," said McInturff. "People are no more attached to us in the majority than to Democrats."
Even with the influence of Tea Party conservatives, McInturff urged Republicans in Congress to reach across the aisle to Democrats, warning that Tuesday's results were anything but an embrace of the GOP.
"Please God, talk every day about what we're going to do to fix the economy," McInturff said. "And please work across the aisle and please work cooperatively to get things done."
McInturff also said he expects Tea Partiers to constitute close to half of all GOP presidential primary voters in 2012, which could give a Tea Party-backed presidential hopeful an influential primary voting bloc.
"They're going to make up 40-plus percent of the primary vote or higher," he said. "And believe me, they are in a no-compromise state."
During the course of the 2010 primary season, Tea Party backers proved a motivated bunch, flexing their muscle in a number of high-profile Republican primary contests.
Among the casualties were Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and longtime Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.). In Alaska, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski might still keep her seat after waging a write-in bid despite her primary loss to Tea Party-favorite Joe Miller.
Most observers point to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Tea Party's top choice should she decide to embark on a 2012 presidential run. But according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, McInturff said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is actually the top choice among self-identified Tea Partiers to act as the movement's spokesman. Palin comes in a close second.
Still, McInturff said it's unlikely that the Tea Party will coalesce behind a single candidate in a GOP primary right at the start, given that one out of every three Tea Partiers also self-identify as religious conservatives--a bloc which typically has its own candidate slot in a GOP primary.