With the New Year fast approaching, ‘tis the season for that heralded past-time when pundits and prognosticators make all sorts of political predictions – some good, some bad; some reasonable, and some wacky.
Here’s a look at how it might shake out for 2012:
1. The Senate will remain controlled by Democrats. A December 2011 Gallup poll revealed that there is an anti-incumbent sentiment in Congress. Going into the 2012 elections, of the 33 seats up for election in 2012, Democrats have to defend 23, compared to the 10 seats Republicans will have to defend, the National Journal reports. Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, who just announced he is retiring and not seeking another term in office, will make the Democrats task at retaining their thinly held majority even tougher. However, if President Obama is able to reenergize his base of youth voters, African Americans and Hispanics, Democrats in the House may be able to ride Obama’s coat tails and secure victory, as well – or at least come close to it. In sum, the 2012 election will be a battle of the enthusiasm gap. For the first time in several years, the GOP base has become less enthusiastic about voting in 2012 and that is mainly because so many of that group is ambivalent about the choices in candidates.
2. Obama will squeak away with a narrow victory in 2012, especially if the Republican Party continues to come off to the general population as the party of the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of the remaining population. It appears that in the battle to win the primaries, the presidential candidates have lost focus. Their talking points, agenda and political manifesto are turning off moderates.
Democrats and the President won this last battle over the payroll tax cut holiday extension right before Christmas. The lesson that the GOP should take away from it is that in times of economic strife, the majority of Americans, including the important middle class voting bloc, do not care about tax cuts for the most part. In this economy, they are more likely to back spending efforts that protect government entitlement programs, social security, unemployment and Medicare benefits over efforts to protect the wealthiest Americans – or the “job creators” as Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the Republicans call them – from additional taxation.
The Republicans have not been able to link tax relief to the rich with job creation. Just because they say there is a connection doesn’t make it so and most Americans are not buying it. No one in Congress, or anyone running in 2012, has produced a detailed plan for generating jobs based on the central theme of easing the tax burden on the wealthy and on business owners.
It is was successful in doing one thing, the Occupy Wall Street movement demonized corporations and those entities that benefitted from taxpayer subsidized bailouts while thousands, maybe millions of Americans were losing their jobs and homes. The boot straps hymn that says those who are successful are such because of hard work and meritocracy alone will not fly in an environment where thousands of those laid off are smart folks who went to college, worked their way up the corporate ladder and for reasons of the economic downturn and through no fault of their own found themselves collecting unemployment while searching for their next job.
The millions of Americans who can relate to that scenario will be turned off from the current GOP candidates. While those who hate the president may eventually fall in line and back whomever is the ultimate GOP primary winner, many more won’t be willing to support the party that blames them for their own plight.
Congress returns from recess soon and its selected House and Senate conferees will get together to decide going forward how to parse out a long-term strategy on the payroll tax holiday – and soon the GOP and the Dems will have to determine how to deal with both debt and deficit. If the GOP continues on its current mantra of protecting wealthy business owners (under a ruse of building small business), they would easily see themselves losing House seats in 2012 and most likely the presidency.
Obama’s approval rating surged to 47% according to the latest Gallup polls and if the trend continues as is, he may be able to stabilize his job approval ranking above 30% and closer to 50%. According to Gallup, of the 11 modern history presidential races only incumbents going into mid to upper range were able to stick around for a second term.
3. If President Obama wins, we will see a more politically active and engaging Michelle Obama who will be relieved of a deliberate campaign to mute her voice and keep the very intelligent, engaging and most likely opinionated First Lady from being a political liability to her husband. During the campaign, Republicans attempted to paint her as the angry Black woman, starting with an attack on Michelle Obama’s casual mention of recently being proud of her country for the first time in her life.
Since then, she has purposefully stayed away from controversy and has championed safe issues such as fighting childhood obesity and military families. She is known more for her style, clothing choices and toned arms more so than her thoughts on a variety of significant issues affecting Americans. However, if her husband is able to secure a second term, she will no longer be forced to hold back and will be much more free and edgier in her thoughts. We will certainly see a change in her current apolitical and reserved role.
4. Ron Paul will win Iowa – but not the Republican nomination. It will spell the end of the Iowa caucuses being as relevant as it is in the Republican primaries, and it will no longer be the “decider” of elections. If Paul wins, this will be the fourth contested Republican primary season when the winner of the Iowa caucus does not go on to win the party nomination. New Hampshire and Florida and early primary states will battle it out to replace Iowa. Even though Paul will not win, he will consider but will not buckle under pressure from supporters to run as an Independent in the general elections. His fans may either sit out the elections or wage a write-in campaign. In any event, Paul supporters will successfully impact the 2012 race.
5. Mitt Romney will come in a strong second, Newt Gingrich will barely edge out Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum will make a respectable showing in Iowa. Although John Huntsman, who has poured all his resources into the New Hampshire primaries, may succeed in edging out Bachmann and Gingrich for a second or third place spot, he will soon bow out of the race after Florida. Bachmann and Santorum will continue to do behind the scenes jockeying for possible VP consideration.