And so, as Obama and the Democrats trudge toward an election bound to make them unhappy, the question is this: If Obama loses seats (or even control of the House), who will he be? Will he be Bill Clinton (a la 1994, after losing the House to Newt Gingrich and the GOP), adjusting to his new circumstance, working to pass welfare reform and a budget agreement? Or will be Jimmy Carter, who went from bad to worse, sulking with not much to show for it?

Granted, if the Republicans win handily, they’ll have problems of their own: some of the newest members of Congress will be virtually unmanageable. They’ll vote against every spending bill, not to mention funding the war in Afghanistan. They will have no appetite for compromise at all. They will make some GOP leaders miserable.

But Obama will be the one to watch, as always. The thing about Bill Clinton is that he knew where to draw a line between the ground he had to yield and the ground he refused to yield. And then he got something done.