David Brooks is pessimistic about a second Obama term, but a nightmare scenario he lays out sounds rather hopeful to me:
The first order of business would be the budget deal, averting the so-called fiscal cliff. Obama would first go to Republicans in the Senate and say, "Look, we're stuck with each other. Let's cut a deal for the sake of the country." He would easily find 10 Republican senators willing to go along with a version of a Grand Bargain.That's exactly what I think would happen, except for the easily-finding-ten-GOP-senators part, and the notion that House GOP's response would "probably" be no (the correct word there is "absolutely"). Given how far to the right the mainstream discussion of this issue is, a can kicked down the road strikes me as the best of all outcomes that could actually happen. (That's why I don't worry about deficit-hawk talk from Obama -- I don't think the GOP absolutists will ever let him be a deficit hawk. Not as long as it means a dime more in taxes paid by the rich.)
Then Obama would go to the House. He'd ask Eric Cantor, the majority leader, if there were votes for such a deal. The answer would probably be no. Republican House members still have more to fear from a primary challenge from the right than from a general election challenge from the left....
Legislators would work out some set of fudges and gimmicks to kick the fiscal can down the road.
Brooks is, naturally, more hopeful about a Romney presidency:
A President Romney would look at the way Tea Party extremism had cost the G.O.P. Senate seats in Delaware and Nevada -- and possibly Missouri and Indiana.Amazing -- Brooks tells us that House Republicans still fear primary challenges from the right, he tells us that Republicans went extreme in 2010 and 2012 even at the risk of losing Senate seats, he tells us that Romney himself would risk a primary challenge from the right if he went moderate ... and yet he thinks everyone would just suddenly stop adopting a teabaggier-than-thou stance just to preserve the political viability of Mitt Romney? A guy no movement conservative even liked until about three weeks ago?
To get re-elected in a country with a rising minority population and a shrinking Republican coalition, Romney's shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate. To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan's budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.
As President Romney made these concessions, conservatives would be in uproar. Talk-radio hosts would be the ones accusing him of Romneysia, forgetting all the promises he made in the primary season. There'd probably be a primary challenge from the right in 2016.
But Republicans in Congress would probably go along. They wouldn't want to destroy a Republican president. Romney would champion enough conservative reforms to allow some Republicans to justify their votes.
Oh, and when in his entire chameleon-like political career has it been Mitt Romney who stood firmly on principle and somebody else who blinked?
It's a ridiculous argument. The David Brooks case for a Romney presidency is a case for a second Obama term.