The '12ers: Congress is usually a rich source of (mostly unsuccessful) presidential candidates. But this year the Hill has only a pair of potential GOP contenders, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana. Fox News Channel, by contrast, has four on its payroll (half-term Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Sen. Rick Santorum). They are members of a conservative commentariat that has a greater vested interest in ratings-driving bomb-throwing—dire warnings about socialism and sharia—than in deal-making. And as presidential contenders in a party dominated by the Tea Party, they have an affirmative incentive to condemn any compromise or deviation from the base's orthodoxy. [See where Pence gets his campaign money.]
Healthcare's prognosis: Speaking at a GOP fundraiser in Florida recently, would-be House speaker John Boehner opined that the Republicans' job is to "do everything we can to keep" the new healthcare law "from being implemented." It's good campaign rhetoric. And without doubt, the GOP will hold an early repeal vote. But after the first flush of majority status has passed, does healthcare repeal remain a Republican fixation, or do they focus on governing? [See which industries contribute to Boehner.]
Overdoing oversight: Congressional Republicans issued more than 1,000 subpoenas to the Clinton administration in the 1990s, underscoring that they were as interested in political score-settling as in governing. California Rep. Darrell Issa, who would take over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in a new GOP majority, has struck a reasonable tone. "Nothing," he wrote recently on The Hill's Web site, "could be more counterproductive and destructive" than "a series of misguided and politically motivated investigations." Maybe so, but Tea Party Caucus chief Michele Bachmann said over the summer that a GOP majority should "issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another" poking into the Obama administration. Could the GOP avoid a return to 1990s witch hunts? Stay tuned.