Here's my Relative Power Scale to influence policymaking that I think explains a lot of the decision making up to now and going forward. Influencers like lobbyists and the American people can effect the values in the formula, but here's my estimate. Tell me what you think: After the 2008 elections, Obama, but especially Pelosi and the House Democrats saw it as somewhat of a mandate. It was easier to tack to the left for Obama as Pelosi had a lot of power. Power to influence policy choices out of 100% (January, 2009-November, 2010): ...and their personal preferences in their position on a scale of 0-10, 0 being most conservative, 10 being most liberal, round up or down Obama 50% X 7 = 35.0% Pelosi 20% X 10 = 20.0% Boehner 5% X 1 = 0.5% Reid 15% X 8 = 12.0% McConell 10% X 1 = 1.0% = 68.5% (scale of 0 (most conservative)- 100 (most liberal) where policy decisions were likely to go. After the 2010 election, power shifted dramatically. Pelosi and Boehner flip positions and relative strength as do Reid and McConnell. In the case of Reid and McConnell, they don't actually flip titles (positions), but I think there's a power shift away from Reid and to McConnell anyway. Here's the new formula for Present-November 2012: Obama 50% X 7 = 35.0% Pelosi 5% X 10 = 5.0% Boehner 20% X 1 = 2.0% Reid 10% X 8 = 8.0% McConell 15% X 1 = 1.5% = 51.5% (scale of 0 (most conservative)- 100 (most liberal) where policy decisions were likely to go. I'm sure some righties will just want to tear this thread down because I posted it. If you don't like it, please just ignore it. There are variables that effect individual policies. It's not this simple. Also, obviously, each individual's power might fluctuate up or down at any given time or on any given issue. There are others with power than these 5. And, on each policy the individual may be more or less liberal or conservative than I describe. But, I think it's a good exercise to think about why policy goes in the direction it does. Obama is giving the GOP a carrot. He's not going to let them run the government wholly, but he will land in the center on average over the next two years in my opinion. Oh, and the reason I give more influence to the Speaker of the House than to Majority Leader in the Senate is the need for 60 votes in the Senate. I'm guessing the recent election likely gives McConnell more power than Reid, primarily because of the House. Instead of dismissing this entirely, review and think if it could be tweaked, but there's something to it. Based on the formula and the somewhat arbitrary numbers I assigned to it, new federal policy and agenda would have been 68.5% liberal over the last 2 years and 51.5% over the next 2. My guess is that's close to spot on.