The hypothesis sounds preposterous from the outset. Why would a sitting president be content with losing his majority hold on a house of Congress only two years following his historic presidential election that swept Democrats of all stripes into power in Washington?
Yet, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs whipped House Democrats into a fury with his comments that the House could certainly be “in play" during his appearance on last Sunday's Meet the Press. Gibbs' assertion was so infuriating to House Democratic leadership, Politico reports, that the normally reserved Speaker Nancy Pelosi blew a gasket during a meeting of top House Democrats and White House political aides last night.
In recent days, speculation has arisen that for President Obama, his electoral chances in 2012 and thus his presidential legacy, a Republican takeover of the House might not be such an ominous occurrence.
Foremost, a Republican controlled House would provide Obama with a natural foil for his 2012 electoral platform. One can already envision the campaign commercials now: "We [the Democrats] were making real progress until Republicans took over the House--then obstruction and negativity invaded Washington." Blah blah blah.
More than likely, however, Obama's political advisers are calculating what is now commonly referred to as "the Clinton model."
President Clinton's ambitious legislative overreach during his first two years in office all but led to the Republican takeover in 1994. Like the early Clinton presidency, Obama's heavily partisan social agenda (the stimulus package, healthcare reform, sweeping financial regulation and perhaps now, we hear, even cap and trade legislation) appear to be sinking his approval ratings to once unthinkable numbers.
A GOP controlled House would force Obama, as it did Clinton, to moderate his stances on many of these issues, thereby likely increasing his popularity with the American electorate.
Do the president and his strategy team secretly hope to lose the House in November? One can’t say for sure, but there are certainly political silver linings should his party fail to retain control.