Let's stipulate that Speaker Boehner wants to do what is best for the country and the economy. Even so, the report by Politico that the Republican Speaker of the House is aiming for a deal with President Obama before the 2012 election on a ten-year, $4 trillion deficit reduction plan that includes $1 trillion in new federal revenues through tax reform/simplification that is not revenue-neutral caused me to stop and think about the politics of it from Mr. Boehner's point of view.
If you're Mr. Boehner, right now, you are the top-ranking Republican in Washington, which is a pretty fine perch. If a Republican wins the presidency in 2012, that person dethrones Mr. Boehner from being the top-ranking Republican in Washington, which, from Mr. Boehner's perspective, isn't particularly desirable. If the reason that Republican is elected president in 2012 is anti-incumbent fervor owing to a bad economy and Washington dysfunctionality, the voters could eject enough Republican congressmen along with President Obama to turn Speaker Boehner back into Minority Leader Boehner. Or, if Mr. Boehner's Republicans hold onto a House majority in 2012, the usual midterm tide against the party that controls the White House could turn him back into Minority Leader Boehner in 2014.
So just on the politics of it, there's a certain pull for Mr. Boehner to go for a deal with the president and try to run in 2012 on some kind of accomplishment and whatever economic recovery is in place by then — a kind of "re-elect Obama and the Republican Congress" ticket, though of course nothing so explicit would ever be said. If Mr. Boehner says to Mr. Obama, "forget your trillion-dollar tax increase, the government spends quite enough already, thank you very much, and let's fight the 2012 election over it," the political upside for him isn't much. He's already speaker of the House. If a Republican presidential candidate is looking for a white, male former congressman from Ohio as a running mate, there's John Kasich. Anyway, Mr. Boehner's political calculus may be different from some of his caucus members, but perhaps not all that much — the rank-and-file Republicans would like to keep their majority, too. So in an odd way the Congressional Republicans and President Obama, as the incumbents in a re-election year, which is always a referendum on the incumbent, have some common interests in getting deals done that are quite different than the interests of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates.