The old cliche of “Be careful what you wish for” has a corollary: “Be careful about what is predicted.” Last January I made the astonishing, almost reckless-appearing prediction that President Obama might not run for re-election. This was greeted by, shall we say, extreme skepticism from both Democrats and Republicans who perhaps thought I had drunk some hallucinatory drug-infused punch while attending a tea party. Now, nine months later, my prediction not only seems credible, it is growing more and more probable by the day. After the “impossible” upset of a Jewish Democrat in a special election in NY-9, a district which had not elected a Republican since 1920, Democrats across the nation are seeing the prospects of an historic landslide defeat in 2012 if Barack Obama is at the head of the ticket. Liberal editorialists are now calling for him to withdraw. Many in the media who had been infatuated with him, are now openly criticizing the president. His poll numbers are sinking to the lows for his presidency. The pressure is mounting for him to call it quits after one term.
Most Republicans and conservatives, for whom the Obama presidency has been a nightmare, are encouraged by this turn of events (although no one, on the right or the left, should feel good about the nation’s domestic and international decline).
I would suggest, however, that if Mr. Obama does indeed withdraw from running for re-election in 2012, the prospects for Republicans might not seem so hopeful as they might seem now. This is because the Democrats would be given the opportunity to nominate a “fresh face” who is not beholden to the Obama administration’s failures and woes, and might yet snatch victory in 2012 from a likely defeat.
Of course, early polls have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leading the list of possible 2012 Democratic candidates, followed by Vice President Joe Biden. It is almost pure name recognition, and tells us little about what might happen if there were a contest. Most observers might also fall into the trap of predicting Mrs. Clinton’s nomination. I would suggest that she, like Mr. Biden, would have to defend the Obama record, especially since he would still be president during the entire presidential campaign. As Hubert Humphrey learned in 1968, that can be a toxic situation. Moreover, Mrs. Clinton inparticular would have to defend her own foreign policy failures in Honduras, Argentina and the Middle East.
If an open contest for the Democratic nomination were to develop in the next few months, significant Democrats without the burden of the Obama administration’s record would likely come forward. I am thinking not only of Governor Andrew Cuomo, perhaps the most exciting new face in the party, but also U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and former U.S. Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana. Freshman Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, a former governor and a prominent Obama critic within the Democratic Party, could also emerge as a serious candidate.
What do all these potential “fresh face” candidates have in common? They are not radical liberals, but instead more moderate figures (as Bill Clinton was in 1992). They would not have to defend Obamacare and the president’s Middle East policies.
I still believe that Republicans win the U.S. senate in 2012, regardless of who wins the presidency, and maintain control of the U.S. House, but if Mr. Obama were not at the top of the ticket, the presidential race outcome might not be so rosy for the Republicans.