On economic and business issues, there has been no discernible change.
“They’re doing the same things, like reintroducing the Paul Ryan budget,” Cutter says. They advocate huge tax cuts for the wealthy, and while Obama has made many concessions on cutting entitlements, Republicans won’t budge on taxes.
A telling illustration is the reaction to the proposal for the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose their political donations, much of which can be hidden from shareholders and voters now. House Republicans, at the behest of corporate interests, are pushing legislation that would prohibit the SEC from requiring this transparency.
Even for those rare issues on which there is some bipartisan agreement — corporate tax reform — the prospects of any action are slim.
Already, only six months after the November referendum and more than a year and a half before the next national elections, leading strategists from both parties privately say that those next contests may be the opportunity to break this impasse.
Yet the more Democrats look at the House, the less optimistic they are. Part of the gloom is caused by the way districts were drawn after Republicans won control in many states in the 2010 election. A larger reason is population patterns; Democrats cluster more heavily in fewer districts.
Republican hopes to take back the Senate — Democrats hold a 55 to 45 majority — looked promising with seven seats held by Democrats in play and a plethora of big-name retirements. Yet those open seats in states such as Iowa, Michigan and Montana look like an uphill climb for Republicans. The best odds now: Republicans will gain several seats, but short of the half-dozen they need for control.
If little changes over the next 18 months, there is one sure outcome: Obama and Republicans will posture for the last two years of this administration, looking for a new message to voters in 2016.
Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist.