Betting on Boehner?

Watching President Obama campaign in support of the American Jobs Act, I get the impression he’s more than just serious about the plan — he seems to think the plan has a shot at passage. If the president were just going through the motions, putting on a show for the sake of appearances, he and his team probably wouldn’t be going to so much trouble. The White House actually seems to think Congress can/should/might send a credible jobs bill to the Oval Office.

And why in the world would the president, who’s well aware of what’s become of Congress, sincerely believe this? Because Obama thinks Republicans, especially in the Speaker’s office, have an incentive to cooperate.

President Barack Obama needs House Speaker John Boehner’s help to muscle a jobs bill through Congress, but he’s betting that Boehner needs the win just as badly.

The White House strategy rests on the risky assumption that Obama can sell Boehner on a new political reality: With voters desperate for jobs, neither leader can afford to do nothing.

It’s a twist on the conventional wisdom that Republicans can ignore a weakened Obama. His approval ratings are low, but Congress is worse off, senior administration officials said Tuesday. House Republicans hold a 48-seat majority, but more than 60 of them will run in districts that Obama won in 2008 — and will contest heavily next year, the officials said. And while the tea party may loathe Obama’s plan, the coveted independent vote does not, they added. […]

The White House expects the Republican rank and file to fight the president’s plan, but it predicts that Boehner will eventually realize that his party would benefit from a bipartisan deal just as much as Democrats.

I understand the logic, and at a certain level, it makes sense.

But there are unavoidable political realities to contend with. For example, congressional Republicans would gladly hurt the country if it meant undermining the president during a time of crisis. Occasionally, they’re willing to admit this. For that matter, they can’t be convinced on policy grounds, because GOP lawmakers no longer recognize reality — they believe the economy will improve if they weaken demand and force more public-sector layoffs.

Also note, since so much of the public holds the president directly responsible for the health of the economy, Republicans don’t believe they have an interest in cooperating, even on popular measures the GOP used to support.

And even in the fanciful dream world that says Congress might actually want to approve jobs legislation, it’s impossible to imagine an agreement over financing since Republicans refuse to accept new revenues.

What’s more, also keep in mind that Republicans want to undermine Americans’ confidence in public institutions, so by rejecting efforts to boost job creation, the GOP is advancing a larger goal by pushing voters to give up on Washington altogether.

The most likely scenario, then, is for House Republicans to push a plan that guts environmental protections and worker safeguards, while slashing taxes on the wealthy, and wait for it to die in the Senate. GOP leaders will say, “Well, we passed a jobs bill but Democrats didn’t like it. That’s not our fault.”

I’ve been pretty impressed over the last week with the White House’s jobs plan, the campaign to generate support for the plan, and the general reluctance to make preemptive concessions. But barring an enormous outpouring of public support, I still don’t see the path between introduction and success.