Assignment Desk: We need some speculation about the legislative bargaining implications of three not-totally-implausible election outcomes:His three are an electoral college tie; an EC/national vote split with Barack Obama winning the electoral college; and a recount/lawsuit mess.
The first two, I think, are essentially identical to simple wins by Mitt Romney (who would presumably win a tie) and Obama. In the case of a tie, I assume that virtually every single Republican Member of the House would immediately announce support for Romney, which would assure Romney the win. In the case of a national vote/EC split favoring Obama, I'm pretty confident that the political system would treat it as a straightforward win. In neither case do I really think that the closeness of the contest would make much of a difference (yes, Republicans would presumably treat Obama as an illegitimate usurper in the latter case, but the managed to do that in 2008 anyway, so it's hard to see that an actual very close election would make much of a difference).
A split or a tie, especially a tie resulting in a Romney/Biden administration, would be a curiosity, but there's lot of precedents for quite properly treating the Constitutional scoring of an election as the real result.
What would happen if the presidency was truly unknown in November, thanks to recounts and lawsuits?
My guess is that the impulse to suspend everything and kick the can down the road for six months, at least on the big Bush tax cut and sequestration items, would be very, very, strong. It would require each side to make a major compromise: Barack Obama doesn't want to sign any further extension of Bush-era tax cuts for upper-tier taxpayers, and Republicans want spending cuts, although not exactly the ones in the sequester. But no one is going to want to thrash that out while everyone's attention is on the election outcome fight, and a lot of people would push for a rapid bridge over the "cliff." A relatively neutral delay is the easiest solution.
However, that's only if the presidency is a total unknown, and everyone agrees it's unknown. What I think gets trickier would be situations in which, say, Obama was leading in enough states but seemingly low-odds recounts or lawsuits were going on in one or more states. We might get into situations in which one party believed it would definitely emerge victorious, while the other believed the outcome was uncertain. My guess would be that those situations in which there's major disagreements between the two parties on (future) leverage would be more likely to yield a breakdown with nothing passing.
On that last scenario and its various permutations, I'm not all that confident of my analysis, and welcome other views. But on the first two: I really do think that people are overstating the potential disruption that a tie or a split would create, assuming no contested states within that.