Opinion Brief

Could losing the House be a blessing for Obama?

Some politicos say Obama would be better off in 2012 if he has a GOP-controlled House to battle with. Not all Democrats agree

Although President Obama has been campaigning hard to keep Democrats in control of Congress, "there is at least a plausible argument that he might be better off if they lose," says Peter Baker in The New York Times. As Bill Clinton and Harry Truman discovered when winning their second terms, "it helps to have an enemy." Beltway insiders don't necessarily agree: A National Journal "Political Insiders" poll found that a very slim majority of Democratic "operatives," and a third of Republicans, think Obama would be better off in 2012 if Democrats win. Still, should Obama be secretly hoping that his party will lose? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about the battle for the Senate)

Yes, let Obama be a Democrat again: Not only will Obama win if Republicans seize the House, says Ari Berman in The New York Times, but his party will, too — by shedding its divisive fringe element. The "rogue group" of GOP-friendly conservative Blue Dogs — the Dems most likely to lose — have "blurred what it means to be a Democrat." A pared-down, more cohesive party will help Obama define himself and the GOP for 2012."Boot the Blue Dogs"

No, a GOP-controlled House will "torment" Obama until 2012: The "big caveat" to that argument, says Michael Crowley in Time, is that the House will spend the next two years flexing its "power to torment the White House through investigations, public hearings, and subpoenaed officials." An "embattled" Obama can't make the GOP a "useful foil" if he's spending all his time playing defense."Torture chamber"

History "cuts both ways": The idea of a Democratic loss being Obama's gain has attained "a certain brand of common wisdom these days," says Jonathan Singer at Polising. But for every Clinton and Truman there's a William Howard Taft. If Obama and the GOP can't get things done together, "particularly on the economy," voters will punish someone in 2012 — and House GOP leader John Boehner isn't running for president."Would it be good for Obama for Dems to lose Congress?"

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