[QUOTE]During the home stretch of the campaign, both President Obama and Mitt Romney have claimed to be the candidate of change. Mr. Obama claims to "know what real change looks like"; his challenger is telling supporters that, "You can stay on the path of the last four years, or you can choose change."
Yet no matter who wins on Tuesday, much of what goes on in Washington won't be all that different.
That's because there are significant limits on what a president can do without a compliant Congress. And forecasters expect the House to remain in Republican hands and the Senate to remain in Democratic hands. That sets the stage for the same Congressional gridlock we've seen over the past four years, when Congress' approval rating has hovered around 10 percent.
And let's say that Mr. Obama wins the election and the House also, improbably, ends up in Democratic hands. Even if Democrats hold the Senate, they still almost certainly won't have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, which will make it easy for Republicans to block many of their policy goals.
On the flip side, let's say Romney wins and Republicans take control of the Senate and hang onto the House. Republicans also wouldn't have 60 Senate votes, and while either party could use a maneuver called "reconciliation" to circumvent the filibuster on certain budget matters - this is what Republicans want to use to block the health care law from going into effect - the minority would still have significant power to stymie the majority.
At the beginning of his second term, President George W. Bush's presided over a fully GOP Congress; his signature policy proposal, Social Security reform, still failed. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, was barely able to get the health care law through Congress despite his party having control of the House and a near-supermajority in the Senate. Neither presidential candidate will have that many allies in the Senate after this election.
This isn't to say that the outcome of the election doesn't matter: The two candidates have very different visions for America, and they will use the significant power of the presidency to try to push them through. There is also a lot that a president can do without assent from Congress, including instituting executive orders (like Mr. Obama's decision to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants) and appointing Supreme Court justices.
But neither party will have the power to fully institute their policy goals or fulfill the promises the candidates have made on the campaign trail, and neither candidate is likely to win the popular vote by such a large margin that he can claim a mandate. More broadly, Washington will be the same place it is now: One where special interests have a significant impact on the decision-making process of lawmakers. It's the reality Mr. Obama ran into following his campaign trail promises of change four years ago, and it's not going away anytime soon. [QUOTE]