Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.) insists his primary goal is to make Barack Obama a one-term President. He has given you the magic formula; call his bluff.
The Republicans have signaled, over and over again, that they have no intention of compromising on anything. But how would that change if Obama publicly made his not running again the price of their cooperation?
What if, in exchange for energy policy, immigration reform, closing tax loopholes, revenue sharing for the states, and even some tweaks to health reform, Obama announces that he will not run in 2012.
What's the worst that could happen? Both parties running on the accomplishments of the next Congress? That would leave a candidate like Sarah Palin to run against Hillary Clinton. Is any Democrat worried?
Obama would make an excellent Secretary of State during Hillary's first term, and probably enjoy it more than the Presidency. There is nothing stopping him from running again in 2016 or 2020.
This scenario has almost no chance of happening of course. The Tea Party caucus will veto any cooperation with Obama, no matter what the payoff. But what a perfect way to fuel civil war in the Republican party. For example, if they move ahead trying to repeal Obamacare, Harry Reid need only force a vote on each of the most popular provisions. What Republican could hope to be re-elected in 2012 by voting to bring back pre-existing conditions as a bar to getting insurance? Those Tea Partiers who voted for repeal would also be consigning themselves to one term. (The attack ads virtually write themselves.)
Given the political realities, offering not to run again would in actuality constitute a symbolic gesture. But what a gesture. What could more starkly oppose one party's willingness to actually govern with another's party's insistence on "no" and "tax cuts" as the universal answer to everything? What American would finally not see who is willing to triangulate and who just wants to strangulate?
There hasn't been near enough jiu-jitsu from this administration. It's way past time for it.