Opinion: And you thought the campaign was over: Boehner and Obama prep for the next 736 days

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Just FYI, the 2012 political campaign launched just a few minutes before you started reading this.

It will be shaped initially by the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections that were supposed to be a stunning verdict on the first 22 months of the hope-filled presidency of Barack Obama.

The results were just that kind of guilty verdict. Angered by the stubbornly sluggish economy, the stagnant jobs market and seemingly deaf Democrats ruling the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate, not to mention some too-comfortable Republicans, voters answered the call of Sarah Palin, Michael Steele and others to ‘Fire Pelosi!’

They delivered a shellacking to Democrats with a loss of six or seven ...


... Senate seats (see Florida’s new GOP senator, Marco Rubio, in the photo above with his family) and around five dozen House seats, the largest partisan turnover in that body in more than a half-century. Come January, the new speaker will be Ohio’s John Boehner. Obama briefly phoned Boehner on Tuesday night, but the Democrat will offer his initial public reaction to the voters’ broad geographic slap at a news conference today. If Obama follows the lead of his party chairman, Tim Kaine, he will confess to no mistakes.

He will say, using many more words (as usual, we’ll have the full transcript right here shortly after), that Americans voted for change in 2008 and were dissatisfied with the state of the country right now. And he understands that, because so is he. He will not acknowledge that after two years in office his approval has plunged from the 70s to the 40s and about 2 out of 3 Americans now think the country is on the wrong track with him.

But the president will mention middle-class Americans again and vow to continue to work for economic improvement and jobs and say he sure hopes that Republicans will finally produce serious proposals that he can work with. The key escape clause there being ‘that he can work with.’

In his remarks Tuesday night (full text here), Boehner said: ‘For far too long, Washington has been doing what’s best for Washington –- not what’s best for America. Tonight, that begins to change.’

The about-to-be speaker listed three top priorities for his New Majority: cutting spending, reducing the size of government and reforming how Congress works to return more control to the people.

We will, no doubt, be publishing many items here in coming months about how this process works -- or not. But here are two harsh realities to watch for, despite the somewhat conciliatory words from both insincere sides:

One, it is to the benefit of both Republicans and Democrats to appear to be willing to work together in the early lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, just 736 days from today.


Two, it is to nobody’s benefit to actually get much done in the meantime.

Not only does the American legislative system encourage gridlock, but the voters’ collective divvying of Senate seats leaves them now almost evenly divided, virtually assuring a stalemate on any important legislation in that already cumbersome body of over-inflated egos. GOP House membership will be larger come January but not large enough to override a presidential veto.

And, perhaps most important, both sides approach any negotiations warily from starkly different political perspectives.

The liberal Obama’s is one of a government community activist, relying on officials and official bodies to accomplish given goals. The Republican approach, newly underlined by the arrival of conservative newcomers, including tea party types, is to get inflated government out of the way and unleash the imaginations, energies and initiatives of the private sector. Other than that, their beliefs are quite similar.

Here’s how Boehner outlined his side’s willingness to work with Obama:

We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course and commit to making the changes they are demanding. To the extent he is willing to do this, we are ready to work with him.

Yeah, right, the pol from Chicago, which doesn’t allow much political opposition, will simply now cave to Republicans after being willing to send so many fellow Democrats over the cliff for his pet priorities.

Obama’s news conference is set for 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. GMT). Listen closely for any specific mention of his intent to reach out to Republicans, maybe with some kind of a political summit, though that last all-day one on healthcare didn’t fool anyone. (Remember, that was the stalemated session that prompted Obama to observe that if the pols couldn’t agree, that’s the purpose of elections, which it seems we just had and he didn’t do too well in.)


In case you have hopes for some kind of bipartisan reconciliation or discovery of common ground in coming months, take a peek at this new Gallup Poll released in the wee hours this morning. Gallup asked Democrats and Republicans to pick their top post-election congressional priorities.

The top issue (36%) chosen by Republicans was repealing Obama’s massive healthcare bill. The odds of that undo measure passing the Senate and/or getting a presidential BHO are the same as the Texas Rangers winning the recently concluded World Series.

The top priority (63%) for Democrats was -- are you ready? -- a new economic stimulus bill. Because that first one worked so well, another is sure to succeed.

Related Item:

Midterm Election Photo Gallery

-- Andrew Malcolm

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