As we've discussed here many times, there a number of factors that make it more likely than not that Barack Obama will win re-election in November. But it's also quite possible that Obama will lose, and Mitt Romney will become president in January. If Romney does win, chances are that he'll come into office with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress. That's because whatever conditions produce a Republican win at the top will also probably allow Republicans to hold on to the House and take the Senate. It's even possible that Obama could win and Republicans wind up with both houses, since Democrats right now hold only a 53-47 lead in the upper chamber, and they are defending 23 seats in this year's election, while Republicans are defending only ten. There's an outside chance that a big Obama win could allow Democrats to hold the Senate and take back the house, but for now let's focus on the possibility of a Romney win, which will probably leave him with the benefit of total Republican control. This is an eventuality that we really need to start thinking about, since a Romney presidency would be shaped in large part by his relationship with Congress.
The thought of finding ourselves nine months from now with a President Romney, Speaker Boehner, and Majority Leader McConnell is ... let's say unsettling. But I'm sure they'll greet their newfound power with humility and restraint, not moving too quickly to roll back regulations, cut taxes for the wealthy, or dismantle social programs. Hah! Kidding, of course—the only question is whether they'll be literally firing their guns in the air on the floor of the House and Senate, leaving holes in the ceiling that will be a testament in plaster to their triumph for years to come. At that point, Democrats will discover that the filibuster is a really, really good thing.
But there's only so much they'd be able to stop, and congressional Republicans will be sending a stream of reactionary bills to President Romney's desk. And let's be honest: He's going to sign every one of them. You will not see Romney veto a bill passed by a Republican Congress because it went too far in achieving conservative goals. Not gonna happen.
Which is why, if Democrats are smart, they'll start a discussion now about how Romney is going to deal with the congressional nutballs in his party. They've already started tying Romney to Paul Ryan's budget plan, but the larger question is how he'll handle this unruly collection of extremists, who have shown themselves quite happy to hold the government hostage and bring America to the brink of default to serve their agenda. The White House is now warning Republicans not to renege on the deal they made last year on the budget (which they are showing signs they want to do, by cutting domestic spending more than they agreed to); if they do, there could be a government shutdown in September. That would put all kinds of pressure on Romney to show he can rein in his party's extremists. If he handles it well, he can demonstrate that he's a responsible adult who is capable of restraining the collection of tantruming toddlers that is the Republican caucus in the House. If he doesn't, he'll show everyone just how chaotic and dangerous a government with Republicans in control of all three branches could be.