Sen. Bayh: GOP wins could improve chances of Obama reelection

Large gains by Republicans on Election Day Tuesday could actually improve President Obama's chances of reelection in 2012, a centrist senator said Monday.

Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said that if Republicans take control of the House and make the Senate close, as expected, it could open an opportunity for both parties to work together, an environment that would help the president politically.

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"I actually think ... that's the wild card," Bayh said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "I actually think his prospects look OK."

Lawmakers and candidates in both political parties have often displayed brusque partisanship on the campaign trail, but some political observers believe that a divided government could result in a more bipartisan political environment. 

Many have cited the relationship between congressional Republicans and then-President Clinton following the 1994 GOP wave, in which both parties worked together to balance the budget and pass welfare reform amid other political strife. Clinton was reelected in 1996.

Not everyone, however, has the same mindset as Bayh. Republican Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah) recently predicted two years of "good old-fashioned gridlock" if his party wins control of one or both chambers.

Unlike the leaders of his party, Bayh predicted a large Republican victory on Tuesday that could be bigger than GOP gains in 1994 and blamed his party for making missteps on key agenda items like healthcare reform.

The Indiana senator said the GOP could take up to 60 House seats and seven Senate seats. In 1994, the GOP made a net gain of 54 House seats and eight Senate seats. 

But he said that in the majority, Republican Party leaders and presidential candidates would be forced to kowtow to the right, leaving room for Obama to appeal to centrists by governing in the middle.

They "are going to having to be going to Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire, genuflecting to the farther right of their party. That's not what the public wants either," he said.

Still, he said, it could be hard for Democrats to see the silver lining.

"It's a tough environment out there," he said.

This post was updated at 12:06 p.m.