This undercuts the Democratic thesis of Republican intransigence, and points to an alternative explanation for the hyper-partisanship in Washington, D.C.
It starts with the recognition that Republican members of Congress, far from being the activists that liberals make them out to be, are in fact highly rational, concerned above all with reelection, which colors every decision they make.
To be sure, the bonds of partisanship complicate things. All else being equal, the fortunes of Republican members are positively correlated with a Republican president, and negatively correlated with a Democratic president. The opposite holds for Democrats. So, Republican members will need a good reason to vote with a Democratic president, and Democratic members of Congress will need a good reason to vote against him.
This means that it is incumbent upon the president to work hard to attract support from the other side, to overcome the force that partisanship exerts against such deals. Obama did not do this at all. Instead, his White House adopted a thoroughly passive nature when it came to bipartisanship, and legislative craftsmanship in general. So, it should come as no surprise that they wound up with bills that satisfied the powers-that-be in the Democratic caucus, but failed to attract Republican votes.
What did the White House seriously expect? Did they honestly think they could let David Obey write the stimulus, George Miller write the health care bill, Henry Waxman write cap and trade, and Barney Frank write financial reform--and Republican support would magically develop?
Knowing this president and his team of advisers, maybe so. But this was foolhardy.