Brad DeLong writes:
One possibility is that Cantor and Boehner have figured out something that has been inherent in the system since FDR but that few people recognized. Perhaps the President is now the ultimate status quo player in the government: Whatever goes wrong the public takes to be his fault and his responsibility. If anything goes badly wrong his political adversaries pick up the pieces and are strengthened.
In that case, whenever the desires of the president conflict with the desires of the speaker of the House, the president has little leverage. Any speaker who does not fear disaster can roll any president. In this future, any bill that a speaker insists is must-pass gets attached to a debt-ceiling increase, and–unless there are people in the Senate equally willing to risk disaster, which is unlikely because senators are status-quo players too–so becomes law.
It’s like a parliamentary system, with the debt-ceiling votes filling the role of votes of confidence.
An alternative possibility is that Obama abetted the entire deal and in essence worked with the Tea Party to roll the Left. But let’s say this first hypothesis is correct. It suggests that the value of holding the Presidency is less than it used to be. For some policy changes, the value of holding the Presidency may be negative for a political party or political movement (Obama brings along some Democratic votes, for the final deal, that Mitt Romney could not). Will the Republicans tank the fight for the Presidency? No, that is hard to imagine. Will they be more willing to nominate a non-centrist and risk a greater chance of losing the election? Maybe so. That could be one legacy of this deal.