Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza is floating another silly up-is-down argument about how President Obama would benefit from Republican control of Congress:
How would the health care fight have played out differently if Republicans were in control of the House?
It's impossible -- though fascinating -- to game out what might have happened but what's clear is that there would be a significant higher bar for Republicans to not only provide alternative proposals but also to work with the President to try to find common ground.
And, if they didn't, Obama could easily use the GOP as a foil -- a symbol of everything that's wrong with government and why it's not working for the American people.
One needs only look back to the last time a Democrat occupied the White House to see the potential political efficacy of such a strategy.
Bill Clinton came into office in 1992 with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate but his presidency foundered in the first two years due to a number of factors not the least of which was his inability to pass his own health care bill.
The Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 election gave Clinton an enemy in the form of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.). Clinton played off of Gingrich masterfully -- never more apparent than in the government shutdown of late 1995 -- and found ways to work with the Republican-led House on initiatives (welfare reform being the most obvious) that cast him as a bipartisan bridge-builder.
The result? A second term for Clinton in a race that was remarkably easy given where his political fate stood two years prior to the 1996 election. (Cynical Congressional Democrats will note that while Clinton won re-election in 1996, it took the party another ten years to reclaim the House and Senate majorities they lost in 1994.)
Not everyone ascribes to the Clinton model of benefiting from divided government when it comes to Obama in 2012, however.
"Power is better," said one senior Democratic party strategist. "His opponent is who matters, and if [Republicans] are still in the minority it will continue the empowerment of their crazies and will make him look better and better and will cause awful headaches for their nominee."
Ultimately, Obama as well as Vice President Joe Biden, who has traveled the country in support of House candidates, will do everything they can to preserve a Democratic majority in the chamber this fall.
As I noted a few weeks ago, the suggestion that Clinton's easy victory in 1996 was "the result" of his triangulation strategy is nonsense. The economy decided Clinton's fate, and it will decide Obama's too. Republican control of the House will hinder Obama's ability to achieve his policy objectives and provide him with relatively little political benefit.