Obviously, this is not good news for Barack Obama, since the popular vote for the House in 2010 was 52 percent to 45 percent Republican. Translate those numbers into electoral votes, and you have something like a 331 to 207 Republican victory.
Now it is possible, even in a period when the congressional and the presidential vote have converged, for a president to improve on his party's off-year performance. Bill Clinton did so in 1996, running 5 percent ahead of his party's House performance two years before, by sharply changing course on public policy.
And it seems that in the negotiations on the debt limit, Obama is trying to depict himself as following a similar course.
He has said he would support billions in spending cuts -- though without providing any specifics. He has said that he would be willing to "look at" means-testing Medicare -- though it's unclear this commitment amounts to anything.
He has encouraged the pliant press to depict Republicans' opposition to "revenues" -- translated into English that means tax increases -- as "intransigence."
But it's Obama who has been intransigent about insisting on tax increases that voters endorsed tepidly at most in 2008 and that they clearly repudiated in 2010.
Obama promised to fundamentally transform America, and he and his party have managed to increase the federal government's share of gross domestic product from 21 percent to 25 percent -- a huge policy change. They are striving now to keep it at that level permanently.
Republicans want to reverse that enormous policy change, and many are ready to denounce any debt limit deal that leaves them short of that goal.
Before doing so, they ought to consult the Constitution. To achieve the changes they want and that voters endorsed in 2010, they need to win again in 2012. The deal that gets them closer to that is what they ought to be seeking now.
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