On the Republican side after the election, ideology will be ascendant while congressional leadership will be weak. Since no Newt Gingrich-like figure has emerged to direct the revolution of 2010, Republican leaders will be carried along by its current. Boehner will have 40, 50 or 60 new Republican House members for whom any spending is too much, making even the normal work of passing annual appropriations bills difficult. The Senate is likely to have a seriously strengthened Tea Party wing, making Mitch McConnell’s life miserable, as either majority or minority leader. Neither Boehner nor McConnell will be in a position to cut deals with Obama without provoking the ideologically excitable.

And there is no indication that Obama would be predisposed to such deals anyway. “I don’t see him as a triangulator,” says Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). “Obama is no Bill Clinton.” Supporters view this as conviction; detractors as arrogance. In a divided government, both have the same outcome…

There seems to be little chance that a divided government will produce serious entitlement reform, particularly because this is also a health-care debate. Much of the deficit problem is created by Medicare, Medicaid and rising health costs. Republicans support reform that both empowers individuals and makes them primarily responsible for controlling costs — the endorsement of which would require the president to admit he has taken the wrong approach to health reform for the past two years. “You can’t take on Medicare and Medicaid reform without a president who supports it,” says Ryan. “It will be 2013 before that happens.”