“John Boehner takes the Speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi today, and the transfer represents much more than a change in partisan control. It marks perhaps the sharpest ideological shift in the House in 80 years, and it could set the stage for a meaningful two-year debate over the role of government and the real sources of economic prosperity.

“We say ‘could’ because much depends on which Republican Party chooses to show up. Will it be the incumbent-protection and business interest-group machine that prevailed under the final years of Tom DeLay? Or will it remember that the real sources of it power and legitimacy are the tea party activists and independents who voted for Republicans in November? So far the signs suggest the latter, but the forces of Beltway inertia are formidable and will weigh on the drive to change the politics of K Street perks and payoffs.

“Merely in taking the gavel, Mr. Boehner will fulfill his most important mandate, which is stopping the damage done by the two Pelosi Congresses. To adapt the Hippocratic Oath, first there will be no more economic harm.”

“‘The problem is going to be the grass-roots movement out in the countryside,’ said Vin Weber, a former Republican House member and Washington lobbyist who served with Mr. Boehner in the 1990s. ‘They have no sense of the limits on a party that controls only one of the three seats of power. Managing that relationship is going to be difficult.’…

“‘He has worked his way back, and he has thought this through,’ said Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia and part of Mr. Boehner’s inner circle from their days together in the House.

“‘But, gee whiz, it is not going to be easy,’ Mr. Chambliss added. ‘We have a bunch of those House guys who are really on fire.'”

“To say that the Tea Party won a mandate is to imply that the public registered approval for its specific remedies for changing government as well. And here the picture is considerably blurrier, especially since neither the Tea Party nor the Republican Party laid out a very specific program for cutting spending during the campaign…

“In other words, while voters endorsed the Tea Party ideal of a radically more parsimonious federal government, they haven’t yet gotten their heads around the excruciating choices it entails — or even the relatively easy ones. And that’s not really much of a mandate, when you think about it…

“What this means, though, is that even the most resounding mandate is likely to be a limited one. Which is why Republicans who would refuse to raise the debt limit may find out that the only thing voters like less than a gushing federal spigot is being forced to shut it off.”

“Fresh from a nearly two-week vacation in Hawaii, Mr. Obama told reporters aboard a Washington-bound Air Force One last night that he expects Republicans ‘to play to their base for a certain period of time.’

“Indeed, one of the first acts of the new GOP-led House next week will be to vote to repeal Mr. Obama’s signature accomplishment, the health care overhaul. Asked specifically what he thought about that largely symbolic vote, Mr. Obama declined to say…

“Incoming House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will realize, Mr. Obama added, ‘that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012.'”