There simply isn’t much common ground between Obama and most House Republicans on the agenda he’s chosen. On every front, Obama is challenging the G.O.P.’s most intransigent interest groups. He’s taking on the anti-tax activists who have controlled Republican economic thinking for decades. He’s taking on the Republicans’ Tea Party base over immigration, an issue that polls (and the Republican Presidential primaries) have shown to be more intense than almost any other for grassroots conservatives. He’s taking on the previously untouchable National Rifle Association with his coming proposals to regulate firearms.
And with today’s nomination of Hagel, Obama will open a new front against Republican neoconservatives, who control foreign policy in the G.O.P. It’s doubtful that the votes to defeat Hagel will materialize in the Senate, but a President’s political capital, especially in a second term, depletes quickly after his election. Even if Obama prevails, the Hagel fight will have a cost to the rest of his agenda.