Politics Before Policy

Douthat peers into the future:

The lure of unseating Obama in 2012 will almost certainly prove more appealing than the prospect of negotiating a complicated deal on deficit reduction with the White House. The only way this calculus might change is if Obama’s re-election starts to look more and more inevitable, and (as Mickey Kaus put it recently, drawing an analogy to the welfare reform deal of 1996) Republican legislators “realize that it’s in their individual interests, if they want to be reelected, to actually accomplish something, even if that means boosting Obama at the expense of whoever gets the G.O.P. presidential nomination.” But the more likely scenario for a bipartisan deal involves Obama winning re-election in 2012 while the Republicans hold the House of Representatives — in which case the knowledge that they’ll be stuck with one another for another four years might propel the parties toward a Simpson-Bowles-like bargain.