Everyone knows they won big. But the Republicans did better by winning the House than if they had also conquered the Senate. Democrats still control two-thirds of the government, so President Obama cannot blame a ‘do-nothing Congress’ the way he could if his party didn’t still control half of it. A few pundits got that on election night.

Fred Barnes takes it a step further.

Republicans have the ability to block Mr. Obama’s agenda, whatever it may be in 2011, but that’s not the point.

Good. We’re tired of many long years of obstructionism.

What matters more is their ability to do positive things with help from Democratic senators wary of bucking the conservative mood in the country.

How likely is that?

Ten Democrats whose seats are up in 2012 come from right-leaning states or saw their states scoot to the right this week…

A lot of states skewed right this week. And Barnes may be going out on a limb here, but here’s what he thinks about those Democrats running for re-election in those states:

It’s a good bet that some or all of them will be sympathetic to cutting spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, scaling back ObamaCare, and supporting other parts of the Republican agenda. With Democratic allies, Republicans will have operational control of the Senate more often than Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will.

That sounds like a leap, given the past two years. Especially based on the premise that Republicans will pursue an agenda ‘with help from Democratic allies.’ But he believes everyone has learned a lesson here.

Republicans now understand that you can’t govern from Capitol Hill. So they won’t try.

Good.

The Republican plan is to stress ideas, not personalities.

Good. Look where the personality cult got us in recent times.

This, they hope, will set the stage for the election of a Republican president in 2012. Trying to pass major policy breakthroughs would either be futile or risk painful backfire.

Please spare us. We’re under backfire fatigue.

The biggest problem for Democrats is the new wedge issue—spending, the deficit and debt. It divides them, and Tuesday’s losses only deepen the divides. Mr. Obama indicated at his press conference on Wednesday that he wants to preserve practically everything he’s done in the past two years, including the spending. A bloc of Democrats disagrees.

Hope springs eternal among Democrats that Republicans elected with tea party support will cause a ruckus by demanding sweeping action. But I think Democrats will have more trouble dealing with their own brethren who agree with John Boehner’s advice that Mr. Obama change course.

When your best hope for recovery is that your opponents screw up, you’re in bad shape. And Democrats are.

Except for the ones who aren’t.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....