I’ve made a couple of predictions so far regarding the 2012 election. I stand by my Obama over Romney prediction – I predicted Gingrich as the most likely spoiler to Romney, but he has surged faster and further than I thought he would. I think he will stay where he is much longer than the previous Not-Mitt-Romney candidates – he’s unlikely as many skeletons in the closet (all of his skeletons came out a long time ago), and he’s been in the game long enough to know where most of the major landmines are. That said, I think his somewhat prickly persona and long legislative history will make him vulnerable, and Romney wil be able to capitalize.
This post, though, is about the stuff that’s going to happen between now and Nov. 6. We live in a pretty crazy time – economically, politically, socially, a lot of things are happening around the nation and the world. Thinking Like a Fox is knowing that a bunch of crazy stuff is going to happen, and will probably mess up your attempts at controlling/predicting them. All of those things could have the potential to completely change the game between now and Nov. 6 – With this post, I’ll try and identify those things and how they could effect the race.
SCOTUS/ACA: The Supreme Court will almost certainly render a ruling on the Constitutionality of the ACA/ObamaCare sometime in the summer of 2012. If they rule on narrow technical grounds, it’s unlikely to have much of an effect on the election. If they overturn the entire law, that’s a major blow to the Obama administration – whoever the GOP nominates will be able to frame the issue as “they tried it once, they’ll try it again!” If the law is mostly upheld, it’s a victory for Obama, but a more narrow one – the GOP can still run on the platform of repealing it. Obama has a lot to lose and little to gain.
Economy in general, European debt crisis specifically: Obama won, in part, on the perception that he was better prepared to handle the financial crisis of 2008. The conventional wisdom is that a poor economy is the primary impediment to his reelection in 2012. While I personally believe that the President really doesn’t matter that much to the macroeconomy, most people disagree — and vote accordingly. If the economy lapses back into recession, Obama almost certainly loses, my earlier prediction notwithstanding. If it improves substantially, he almost certainly wins, regardless of the GOP nominee. If it stays the same or only improves slightly, I still think he wins for the reason I outlined in Prediction #3, but by a much more narrow margin.
Iran/Syria/Crisis abroad- Syria could be on the brink of a full-fledged civil war that would dwarf the scale of the conflict in Libya – Syria has 4 times the population of Libya. It’s unclear what, if any role the US would have in an armed revolution there, but Syria lies in a strategically important part of the world and borders major US allies and interests in Turkey, Iraq and Israel. Conflict in or with Iran is less likely than the Syria scenario — but US involvement there is probably more likely, given the last decade of tension and the possibility of a nuclear element in the equation.
If either of these conflicts (or some other conflict) breaks out in the run-up to the election, it works in Obama’s favor – he has a solid foreign policy record and will be positioned to run on a “Victory in (Country Name)” platform. The one thing that would almost certainly spell doom for an Obama reelection would be a succesful Iranian nuclear test – there’s no evidence that they’ll be capable of that in the next year, but that event would open Obama up to (justified) accusations of being “asleep at the switch.” I don’t foresee that occurring, but it remains a possibility.
Some other crazy stuff – By definition, you can’t predict the unpredictable. Aliens could land, we could invent a Mr. Fusion for your car and the Lions could win the Super Bowl this year. There’s a lot of time for crazy stuff to happen between now and election day.