If you think Obama's first term was bad, imagine a second

The kind of campaign Obama is running militates against his credibly claiming a mandate after getting re- elected. He is, for the most part, banking on getting reelected by tearing down Romney rather than attracting voters with his own second-term agenda. Sure, an Obama victory would reasonably be interpreted as a sign that the public isn’t wild about restructuring Medicare the way Republicans want. But Republicans wouldn’t make any serious effort to act on that idea without an ally in the White House anyway. Obama will have fulfilled most of his mandate — not to “end Medicare as we know it,” not to let a job- outsourcer become president — the minute he wins. He won’t get extra leverage on live legislative issues before the Congress, because his campaign isn’t even asking the public for it…

The Republicans aren’t going to change. Judging from the interview, neither will the president. He said that after the election he would tell Republicans “you no longer need to be focused on trying to beat me; what you need to be focused on and what you should have been focused on from the start is how do we advance the American economy.” He would reiterate that he has always been open to compromise. And he would “look at how we can work around Congress,” if needed…

If the public renders a split verdict — returning Obama to the presidency and giving Republicans more power in Congress — both parties will insist that it’s the other that needs to “listen to the American people.” The choice before those people is looking more and more like one between Romney and a unified Republican government, or Obama and four more years that look a lot like the last two.