Would Obama Fare Better With a Republican House?

With prognosticators hardening their positions about Republicans taking control of the House, the latest analytical tack you'll see pundits take is to say that the White House is probably better off in the long term with Republicans owning part of the government in the short term.

Would losing the House be better than keeping it? Perceptions about the economy and Obama's inability to fix it are coloring everything else and are a very heavy weight on the scale. So if you think that losing the House somehow stabilizes the economy, then maybe.

The counter-argument is that the only real detriment to losing the House would be the subpoena power that Rep. Darrell Issa and other Republicans get. But investigations cut both ways, and Republican leaders may have less of an appetite for them if they become politically damaging to the party that instigates them. The White House, incidentally, has elaborate contingency plans for such an eventuality.

If the economy stabilizes toward the end of 2011 ... at the very least, even if it's a double dip recession, 2011-2012 will be the beginning of one of the legs of the upward part of the "W." The money from the stimulus that actually will stimulate the economy is on the sidelines, authorized and ready to go. Perceptions about Obama's leadership, rather than the actual economy -- though they go hand in hand -- will be the most important factor in his re-election.

If, after the rest of the stimulus funds kick in, the GM stock option does well, and Obama revamps his election effort in an economy that is turning the tide, he can lay the blame on the GOP for trying to block improvements that would benefit everyone.

Chuck Todd has made a great point on NBC: Obama had a chance to change Washington but succumbed to Washington on the first major piece of legislation. But maybe Obama can't change Washington when HIS party is controlling the purse strings. With a GOP House, he can do what he does best ... stand above the GOP House and the Democratic Senate and be a triangulator (not in Dick Morris's sense of the word, but as the guy who brokers consensus-building agreements between the two chambers).

With promises to repeal this and promises to investigative that, GOP House members will run the risk of being seen as spitball-throwing children. And, of course, power corrupts, and there will inevitably be frustration directed at the GOP. (Also, should the economy not bounce back as many think it will toward the end of 2011, he has an insurance policy of blaming those GOP House members.)

I don't think there is anything Congress can do in the next year that will alter the economy. But the building blocks for a recovery post-2011 are there. Within that climate, Republicans will be put in the unenviable position of rooting against the economic upswing, after so many have already gone on the record criticizing aspects of the stimulus and the GM bailout (final chapters not written on either) that are likely to 1) aid in the economic improvement, and 2) be sold in the Obama narrative as an example of government intervention keeping the private sector strong.