GOP has no incentive to cut a deal on fiscal cliff

Chris Cillizza:
Amid the last-minute wrangling over a “fiscal cliff” deal, it’s important to remember one overlooked fact of the 2012 election: Republicans in the House and Senate have absolutely no political incentive to compromise with President Obama.

The numbers are stark.

Of the 234 Republicans elected to the House on Nov. 6, just 15 (!) sit in congressional districts that Obama also won that day, according to calculations made by the Cook Political Report’s ace analyst David Wasserman. That’s an infinitesimally small number, particularly when compared with the 63 House Republicans who held seats where Obama had won following the 2010 midterm elections.

The Senate landscape paints the same picture — this time looking forward. Of the 13 states where the 14 Republican Senators will stand for reelection in 2014 (South Carolina has two, with Lindsey O. Graham and Tim Scott up in two years time), Obama won just one in 2012 — Maine. In the remaining dozen states, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won only one, Georgia, by less than double digits. The average margin of victory for Romney across the 13 states was 19.5 percentage points; take out Maine, and Romney’s average margin was 22 points in the remaining 12 states.

The picture on the Democratic side is less clear. Although 96 percent of House Democrats in the 113th Congress will hold seats Obama won in November, according to Wasserman, fully one-third of the 21 Senate Democrats who will stand for reelection in 2014 represent states that Romney won.

While Obama narrowly lost North Carolina, where Sen. Kay Hagan (D) will run for a second term in November 2014, the president lost the other six states where Senate Democrats will be running by double digits. Here’s that list: Alaska (lost by 14), Arkansas (lost by 24), Louisiana (lost by 18), Montana (lost by 13), South Dakota (lost by 18) and West Virginia (lost by 26). Obama’s average margin of defeat across these seven states? A whopping 16 points.

Even the most cursory analysis of those numbers makes two things clear.

First, with the exception of a dozen or so Republicans in the House and Maine’s Susan Collins in the Senate, the number of GOP members of the 113th Congress who see cutting a deal with the president — in the fiscal cliff or, frankly, anything else — as politically advantageous is close to zero.

Second, while House Democrats are equally de-incentivized to working across the aisle, there is a large-ish group of Senate Democrats who must find ways of showing their bipartisan spirit if they want to win reelection in states that didn’t favor their party — or even come close to doing so — in the 2012 election.

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So why is Obama acting like he has the whip hand?  When it comes to cutting a deal he just is not very smart.  He does not understand the art of making deals.  His attitude is one that actually makes deals harder because he is too arrogant to understand when he needs to accommodate the party on the other side.  Obama is a idealog who would rather do something counter productive than do something that make sense economically.

The result is going to be no deal plus another major fight on the debt limit with Republicans insisting on more cuts and he will no longer have the leverage of losing tax cuts, that have already been lost.  About the only thing he has going for him is a biased media, but even they can see his problem now.

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