So I’ve been criticized for not saying enough bad things about President Obama or commenting on this election season.

Well, my analysis of the generic D vs. R poll and the particular races suggests that it’s extremely likely that the Republicans will take over the House. Two points of hesitation: The president’s popularity rating is not THAT low. And big swings in the House are usually somewhat unexpected the summer before (2006, 1994). Something this obvious, in other words, can’t possibly happen. Still, the biggest factor may well be the enthusiasm gap, which favors the Republicans big-time right now.

The Republicans will probably come up short in the Senate, but it’s conceivable they will take over there too by sweeping all the close races (which usually happens in a swing year).

We have to add to the enthusiasm gap, of course, the perception that the president would actually prefer a Republican Congress at this point. The Democratic Left threatens his attempt to give us good government far more than the Republicans Right now. His goal is to consolidate his considerable accomplishments and not to overreach by producing new and more unpopular and quite questionable ones (such as cap-and-trade). The Republicans won’t have the votes to override his veto of any effort to modify substantially the health care bill. And it’s actually easier to get reelected (remember Clinton) by being able to share whatever blame there is to share with the other party.

Right now, any competent social scientist would predict that the president will be reelected. The enthusiasm gap will disappear in 2012, with black voters energized, liberals scared straight by the prospect of all-Republican government, and the considerable abilities of the campaigner-in-chief unleashed on the country. And of course there’s the fact that the electorate will be less white in 2012 than it was in 2008 (and the Republicans aren’t in the process of addressing their Hispanic “issues”).

But here’s what can’t be predicted: economic collapse or significant decline, foreign policy crisis (especially one incompetently handled—for example, the American reaction/contribution to the Israeli attempt to take out the Iranian nuclear capability), and the Republicans coming up with a candidate more charming and articulate than Obama. That third possibility is the one for which we should wish and the one, in principle, most in Republican control.

More coming on the challenges/opportunities of divided government.

More on: Etcetera

Articles by Peter Lawler

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