House Democrats are already laying out their plans for President Obama’s next term:
“He’s got to continue to concentrate on jobs,” Rep. Bill Pascrell said last week as the House was leaving town for a long, pre-election recess.
“I’m hoping he’ll do immigration reform,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).
“We should get back to an energy policy – one that acknowledges that climate change is real,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).
“The critical issues will be revenue generation … and … a concerted push on immigration reform,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
“I think he’d want his administration to start on healthcare,” said Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.).
How will the president manage to succeed in bold, new legislative initiatives when such success has eluded him since, well, 2009? The top explanations seem to be:
- There will be a Democratic sweep, putting Democrats not only in charge of the White House but both houses of Congress as well.
- A Republican Party chastened by two consecutive presidential losses will start making nice.
- He just has to.
Eleanor Clift touches all of those bases in her imagining of the second Obama term:
Obama could do more to build relationships outside his comfort zone, but those who know him best don’t expect a major shift in how he operates. “It’s a lot to ask of anybody to get a personality transplant,” says Daschle. “It’s not going to happen.” But Republicans who are serious about negotiating will find a willing and eager partner, he says. “McConnell can’t make his infamous statement again (about making Obama a one-term president), so there is opportunity here to start anew.”
For a president who prefers to operate within a tight circle of familiar faces whether he’s making policy or playing golf, a second term represents wholesale change. Virtually all the Cabinet and a good portion of the White House staff will be gone. There will be no David Plouffe and no David Axelrod gearing up for the next campaign. Pete Rouse, Daschle’s former chief of staff and a savvy insider who has been with Obama for eight years, may finally head for the exit. Rouse is overseeing super-secret transition planning, which will guide the president immediately after the election when Obama confronts the fiscal cliff.
What Sen. Daschle and Ms. Clift are ignoring is that every Republican senator and representative still holding office will have won his or her own election and, for good or ill, that election is more important to her or him than the presidential election. What the Congressional Republicans have been doing has been working for them.
So, short of a Democratic sweep, for which the present InTrade odds are less than one in five, what are the next four years likely to look like? My best guess is that in the event of an Obama victory, if you liked the last two years, you’ll like the next two. Voting Obama is a vote of confidence in the status quo. If Romney’s challenge fails, it will be because he hasn’t been able to convince enough voters that he presents a better alternative.