Would Losing Congress Really Be So Bad for Obama?

Some say the president would benefit from a divided government

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Republicans are expected to clean up in the midterm elections, regaining control of the House and picking up a number of seats in the Senate as well. For obvious reasons, it's generally believed that this would be a bad thing for President Obama as he embarks on the latter half of his term. But some analysts think the challenges facing Obama wouldn't necessarily be so great--and that if he's canny about it, he could even turn a divided government to his advantage.

  • Here's How Losing the House Could Help Obama  Last month in Salon, Mark Greenbaum argued that if Republicans gain a majority in the House, "Democrats and Obama will no longer have 100 percent ownership of the government, allowing them to diffuse responsibility for the national state of affairs." Greenbaum adds that a Republican House "would provide the president with a credible foil he can use to go on the offensive...  shifting away from the aloof, professorial style that has been so ineffective to a more confrontational approach." Such a shift, says Greenbaum, would help Obama's image should he decide to run for a second term.

  • Obama Will Look Good Next to an Empowered GOP, thinks Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland business school who was quoted in an ABC News story. "President Obama's prospects for re-election improve if Republicans take the House and Senate," Morici told reporters. "The Republicans will slow down the Obama Express, but they don't have a program of their own that they can pass that will significantly improve the economy. Then the president can run against the Republican Congress in 2012 and win."

  • House Republicans Intend to Work With Democrats, writes Naftali Bendavid in The Wall Street Journal. Bendavid reports that "GOP leaders say they recognize they may have to compromise with Democrats in tackling broader problems ... Top Republicans contend that passing legislation, or at least making a good faith effort to do so, will earn them more credibility with voters than refusing to waver from purist principles." Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, is quoted in the article as saying, "It's pretty clear the American people expect us to use the existing gridlock to create compromise and advance their agenda ... They want us to come together [with the administration] after we agree to disagree."

  • Wrong--A Republican Congress Would Mean Nonstop Investigations, writes Kenneth Walsh at U.S. News & World Report. Walsh foresees "the GOP using the legislative branch's majority powers to investigate, call hearings, and subpoena witnesses to embarrass and hold the administration to account"--a campaign of "witch hunts and endless probes, which could tie the administration in knots with constant demands for documents and appearances by senior officials. Some GOP leaders privately say that's likely." Walsh adds that likely subjects of investigation include the health care law, the bailouts of banks and auto companies, and the administration's response to the Gulf oil spill disaster.

  • Obama's Agenda Would Be Paralyzed, agrees Roselle Chen at Neon Tommy. Chen predicts that a Republican Congress would forestall Obama's ambitious infrastructure plan, block funding to his education and environmental initiatives, and try to roll back health care the health care law. The one area where Obama might remain effective would be foreign policy, since "the congressional restraints put on a president domestically are less so when the president works internationally."

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