Obama, Boehner, and the Lessons Learned From the Last Four Years

Republicans show they haven't learned much over the last four years, but Obama has.

House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama can both claim electoral mandates to support their positions on taxes.
By + More

Not everyone in politics has learned the lessons of recent years, however. When West Virginia GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced last month that she would mount a Senate challenge against incumbent Democrat Jay Rockefeller, she was widely greeted as the GOP's best, and perhaps only, shot at winning the seat in 2014. But as has been demonstrated over and over again over the last two election cycles, mere electability is an insufficient reason for support among some powerful voices on the right. So Capito was denounced by the Club for Growth as a big government pork barreler while the Senate Conservatives Fund, the political action committee run by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, the chamber's resident ideological enforcer, said that she "is not someone we can endorse" because of her "pro-government, pro-Washington voting record."

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

This is where it's important to keep recent history in mind. Political puritanism has cost the GOP five seats in the last two election cycles, preferring what political handicapper Charlie Cook calls "exotic candidates" like Indiana's Richard Mourdock. He defeated incumbent Richard Lugar in the primary before self-immolating in the general election with his musings about God's intentions regarding rape-induced-pregnancies. So that movement is now eyeing Capito, in addition to potential tax apostates like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Taking the lessons of Lugar and others to heart might account for Graham's virulence in his attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice—a reputation as an anti-Obama terrier could be a good bulwark against a primary challenge.

  • Read Mary Kate Cary: Obama Doesn't Have Leverage in Fiscal Cliff Negotiations
  • Read Susan Milligan: The Susan Rice Fight Is Really About Making Obama Look Bad
  • Read Peter Roff: Quinnipiac Poll on Norquist Tax Pledge Is Clearly Biased