Is it to early to start making predictions about 2010, 2012 and beyond yet? Probably, but I’ve got a few thoughts anyway.
First, if Obama runs his presidency like he ran his candidacy, he’ll be a great president and will win reelection in a cakewalk. Obviously, there are huge challenges ahead, but I have faith his administration will be able to handle them.
Second, assuming prediction #1 pans out, we’ll see another wide open race in 2016. I’m a big Joe Biden fan, but he’ll be 74 in 2016 – two years older than McCain is now. No way he runs. Hillary Clinton will 69 so I don’t see her running either. Well, maybe they run but I doubt they’d win the nomination. I’m guessing the Democratic nominee in 2016 will be someone who’s not top of mind today – someone who emerges in the next two or four years as “the next Obama”.
Third, we haven’t seen the last of Sarah Palin. I’ve been extremely critical of her, but my libertarian friend recommended I not underestimate her. So I won’t. I think she’ll be the Republican nominee for president in 2016. I know folks are talking about her for 2012, but I think she’d rather take her chances in a wide open race in 2016 than go up against Obama a second time. She’s only 44 now, so she’ll be 52 in 2016 – about perfect for a presidential candidate. Eight years is a long time for her to close the unqualified gap.
In fact, I’d say Ted Stevens apparent reelection is a likely silver lining in otherwise crappy election for the Republicans. Ted Stevens was found guilty on felony corruption charges and faces expulsion from the senate, regardless of his apparent victory yesterday. If he is expelled, there would be a special election to decide his successor. You have to assume Mark Begich, Stevens’ Democratic challenger, would handily win that special election. But what if Palin ran against Begich? She’s taken a hit it her approval ratings since joining the VP ticket, but she’s still very popular in Alaska and probably liked best by Stevens’ supporters. I’m not saying it’s a shoo-in, but I believe she’d have a very good chance to win a special election.
Being a senator for eight years would be long enough to shore up the concerns about her qualifications but short enough not to have much of an attackable voting record. She’d have to win reelection in 2014, but given that Stevens has won seven elections in a row dating back to 1970, I’m guessing getting reelected in 2014 would be no problem.
So my predictions are a fairly easy Obama reelection in 2012, followed by Sen Palin ® vs. “The Next Obama” (D) in 2016. Midterms in 2010 will probably see Dems give back some of their recent gains, but not enough to lose control of either house of Congress. 2014 is to far out to predict, much less who wins in 2016. But looking at voting trends among minorities, party ID advantages, etc, I like Democrats chances for the foreseeable future.
Finally, I wonder if this is the “end of identity politics” as some have suggested. One election is not a trend, so I tend to think that Obama was immune to such attacks more than those attacks no longer viable. We may need to wait until 2016 to find out. When Palin does run again, will she still be a pitbull with lipstick? I like to think identity politics is toast, but I’m guessing the Republicans will go back to that well a few more times before giving up on it. Democrats, on the other hand, have all the proof they need that they can win against identity politics: President-Elect Obama.