I usually view the gridlocked relations between Democrats and Republicans through the prism of mutually assured destruction. Each side tries to maximize a temporary political advantage while ignoring the permanent damage to both parties’ reputations.

Approval ratings for Congress and the presidency have been on a steady decline for more than 30 years, with occasional blips in times of national crisis (although it is only enemies without that they unite against). But a recent New York Times/CBS Poll shows that the latest stand-off between the Obama administration and the Republicans in Congress may be playing out in the president’s favor. Sixty percent of those surveyed believe that President Obama is trying to work with Republicans in Congress, but only 27 percent of those surveyed believe that Republicans are making an effort to work with the president.

I wouldn’t make too much of these numbers, but they do support Andrew Sullivan’s thesis that the president is playing a long game in which he will benefit by painting Republicans as obstructionists. The game worked for President Clinton in his 1996 election. Could history repeat itself?