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Cover Story

Election 2012: How another Obama term might be different

Would four more years of Obama change the Washington dynamic?  A two-part election 2012 report profiles the stark differences and interesting similarities of a second-term Obama White House vs. a  Romney White House – either of which would have to deal with a highly polarized Congress.

By Staff writer / October 14, 2012

This two-part cover story for the Oct. 15 issue of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly looks here at how a second-term Obama White House might be different, and in a companion article at how Romney White House might operate.

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Washington

Suppose President Obama wins reelection and the Republicans win control of at least one house in Congress. In other words, the status quo prevails.

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Are Americans, therefore, in for four more years similar to the past two, defined by intense partisanship and gridlock? Or would Mr. Obama's reelection change the dynamic in Washington and pave the way for compromise?

Obama is asserting the latter. By definition, he has said in recent interviews, being reelected will put to rest Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's priority of making Obama a one-term president, and will add new fuel to Obama's agenda – to lock in place health-care reform, raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and cut subsidies for oil companies, to name a few of his goals.

"The American people will have spoken," the president told The Associated Press.

It is that vote of confidence, Obama hopes, that will bring Republicans back to the table ready to make a deal – not just on the critical "fiscal cliff" issues that must be resolved by the end of the year, but also toward a "grand bargain" on deficit reduction: spending cuts, including on entitlement programs such as Medicare, in exchange for Republican concessions on revenue.

But it remains far from clear just what kind of mandate, if any, Obama will have gained from reelection, especially if he wins by a slim margin. After all, the Republicans – having lost the presidential race – will probably be embroiled in their own internal battles over the future of their party, and may be in no mood to give ground to a newly energized Democratic president, just as they weren't in the mood in January 2009 after Obama's first inauguration.

"Any kind of dream that it will be 'Kumbaya' up there and that gridlock will suddenly end and Republicans will work with him, that ain't happening," says Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

But that doesn't mean Obama would give up. Far from it. During his first presidential campaign, in an interview with a Reno, Nev., newspaper, he portrayed himself as a Reaganesque figure who could change the trajectory of America. President Reagan, Obama said, "tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, we want clarity, we want optimism." The senator from Illinois suggested he would do the same.

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