In the case of the 111th Congress, that meant Democrats had a 15-seat advantage in the Senate and a whopping 78-seat majority in the House.
Such lopsided numbers made Mr. Obama a powerful president when it came to enacting his agenda. And yet, looking back now, those same majorities probably made it almost impossible for him to realize his stated goal of building cross-party coalitions with Republicans in Congress…
There are at least two areas where the president and his adversaries may need each other to achieve longstanding goals. White House aides are hoping that the bipartisan tax accord reached with Republicans this month will form the basis for similar agreements on deficit reduction next year. Mr. Obama has already called for freezes in discretionary spending and federal salaries, and the feeling inside the White House is that if the president can establish that he is serious about reining in federal spending, Republicans will have no choice but to negotiate over how much and how to do it.
Then there’s education reform, an issue that divides the president from a lot of his allies because of his support for performance-based teacher pay and testing for both students and teachers.