Tuesday, April 19, 2011

2012 Election Predictions, etc.

The 2012 Republican primary is starting to heat up, so I want to get my early 2012 predictions out there. A lot of people don’t like to make concrete predictions this early, for fear of being wrong and then ridiculed in the future. I like to make super-early predictions though. I’ve been wrong about politics before, and I fully recognize that this post may look ridiculous in 18 months. But I do follow this stuff very closely, and I like to think I have a decent political sense. Anyway, on to the predictions.

I think the Republican presidential primary will essentially be a two-man race between Huckabee and Romney. After splitting the early states, I think Huckabee winds up winning the nomination. Huckabee, Romney, and Haley Barbour are the only candidates who can raise real top-tier money. (I’m excluding Sarah Palin because I don’t think she’ll run, but if she does run, then obviously she’ll be able to raise top-tier money too.) Barbour doesn’t have the name recognition or the charm of Huckabee and Romney, and Republican primary voters do tend to nominate candidates who are viewed as having waited their turn. Also, the mainstream media doesn’t respect Barbour; they view him as a crazy, confederate-flag-waving good ol’ boy, and fair or not, that’s how he’ll be portrayed. In addition to Palin, I don’t think Newt Gingrich, Mitch Daniels, or Chris Christie will run. I think Ron Paul will run though. And I think Jon Huntsman will run, but drop out early (he’s setting himself up for 2016, where he could legitimately be dangerous).

Of course, this assumes that Huckabee runs, which he may not. I think he will run, but if he doesn’t, then obviously I think Romney gets the nomination. Either way, the Republican primary is going to be a truly sad spectacle, as the candidates try desperately to out-crazy each other for months on end.

In the general election, I’m actually more scared of Romney than Huckabee. In 2008, I really wanted Romney to get the Republican nomination, because I thought there was just no way that the American voters elect a Mormon president. In 2012, I think the right’s blind anti-Obama rage will cause them to turn out in droves for any Republican nominee — even a Mormon. And Romney’s business background, his experience as a moderate Republican governor of a liberal state, and the fact that he looks extremely presidential (which is sadly an important factor), has the potential to win over Independents. Huckabee, however, will undoubtedly shoot himself in the foot several times in the general election (“discipline” isn’t his forté).

Regardless of who wins the Republican nomination, I think it’s highly likely that Obama will win re-election. Incumbent presidents have a huge advantage with Independents, who already view Obama as a very cerebral person. The circus in the Republican primary will scare most disaffected liberals back into Obama’s corner too. (I do think liberals will revolt against an incumbent Democratic president eventually, but it won’t be Obama.)

Of course, I also hope that this is how the election plays out. As I’ve said before, I’m a Democrat, and an Obama supporter. I voted for him in 2008, gave a not-insubstantial amount of my wife’s money to his campaign and campaign-related groups, and I plan to do the same thing in this election cycle. (I’m something of an easy target for Democratic fundraisers.)

There are certainly things that Obama’s done that I disagree with — first and foremost, the hiring of Rahm as chief of staff. On the other hand, Obama’s administration did address the subject I know by far the most about, and around which I’ve spent almost my entire professional life (financial reform), and I think they handled it very well. No, scratch that, I know they handled it very well.

Moreover, I also recognize that in a lot of decisions, if not most decisions, Obama has significantly more information than we do. That’s just a reality, and one that you can’t ignore. Unfortunately, it’s something I think a lot of Democrats are ignoring, since it’s deeply unsatisfying for people — and especially for people interested in politics — to say, “I don’t know if Obama made the right decision on X, because I don’t have all the information, and he does.” Given that Obama has vastly more information than we do, it’s sometimes (though not all the time) necessarily a matter of whether you trust his judgment. At this point, I still do. That may change in the future, but that’s where I stand right now.

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