2012 presidential election: not just the status quo

Thursday, November 08, 2012

I wrote two days ago that my ideal (yet realistic) electoral result for 2012 would have been:

-- Barack Obama reelection.
-- Senate the same at 53 to 47. 53 here includes independents who caucus with Democrats.
-- A Democratic gain of about five to ten seats in the House.
-- Losses for certain candidates like Bachmann, Akin, Joe Wilson, etc.

With only a few differences, this is essentially what happened last night. Democrats actually managed to pick up seats in the Senate, unthinkable a few months ago when it was not even a sure thing that they would remain the majority, and the House so far looks like a pickup of about five seats.

So we have a Democratic president, Democratic Senate, Republican House, same as last time. Is this just the status quo? Hardly. 2012 was a peculiar year in which the presidential election happened during a particularly bad (but moderately improving) economic time, with a president with particularly good favorability ratings against an opponent with a particularly interesting primary and general election strategy. It's no surprise that the Democratic party was originally most fearful of running against Jon Huntsman for president, a candidate that almost certainly would have won this time around if the base had chosen him. Just a tad of moderation here and a dab of outreach to non-white voters there and the presidency could have been the GOP's for the taking.

Changing demographics is the main reason why the election result was not just the status quo - there is no way to win the presidency with a coalition of voters the GOP assembled last night, and in four years' time it will be even less possible.

Economic conditions: by 2016 some 12 million jobs are predicted to be created no matter who is president, a quarter of a million new jobs per month. An unemployment rate well below 7.9% actually is the status quo in the United States, and the next presidential candidate will likely be able to run for office under those conditions.

GOP infighting: there is a lot of soul-searching happening in the party right now - take a look at Red State today for example. The conclusion there seems to be that a true conservative needed to run to win, elsewhere the conclusion is that too many 'true conservatives' who weren't ready for prime time ran for office, talked too much about social issues, and that was the cause of the loss of seats. But since those on Red State and elsewhere still have yet to see their brand of true conservative run...we might just see one of their dream candidates be nominated in 2016. I'm unsure as to whether they need to see a dream candidate like Perry or Bachmann or someone else run for president once before they will conclude that this is 1) the only way the GOP can truly win or 2) a big mistake and we all need to go home and stop running our primary candidates through all these silly hoops and promises to win the nomination.

2nd term: Barack Obama was never quite taken to be the legitimate president of the US by much of the GOP base. His first term was thought to be an anomaly, an error that needed to be fixed, a trojan that needed to be uninstalled. Now that he has a second term, however, making this argument is nearly impossible: the country chose him in 2008, and then chose him again four years later. There will be no Barack Obama running for president either in 2016, so we have a guaranteed four more years of Obama followed by...who knows what. I'm hoping for Huntsman on the GOP side, though as Matt commented yesterday the party may not be in the mood for another well-off Mormon businessman at the helm just right now.

Romney: we may soon finally get to see what Romney truly believes, now that he is not running for anything. As I wrote in the last post I have a certain fondness for him, and want to see what he truly thinks about issues A, B and C without any thought for votes or endorsements or anything else. He is most certainly earnest about taxes and abortion, but not sure what he truly believes about other issues such as immigration and the like.

The next interesting election: June 2013, Iran. Time for us to brush up on our Persian.

Edit: Also Israel in January.


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