If you’re like most Americans, you might tire easily of the debates, town hall meetings, commercials, mud-slinging, “instant analysis” ad nauseum. Even when I have a favorite candidate, like a favorite baseball team, I can get a bit weary of the circus.
But unlike the race for the American League West title, this is a contest that has some pretty serious consequences. Matters of war and peace, prosperity and poverty, race and rights, the air we breathe, these things are all affected by the man (or woman) in the White House.
This election cycle is especially complicated, because if the polls are to be believed, none of the possibilities are really very popular with the general public.
Sure, they may have a loyal following within their “wing” of the political animal, but nationwide …. They’re all flying on a wing and a prayer.
So here’s my handicap of the Presidential field a year head of the stretch run of the race in 2012.
CO-FAVORITES: Barack Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R). Even though the economy remains stuck in second gear and there’s little sign it will bounce back much by Election Day, Obama will probably still have a fighting chance. His approval ratings are low, but he is personally more popular than his record is, and he’s has a scandal-free administration. Romney is good-looking, a successful businessman and generally more moderate than most of his GOP rivals.
HOWEVER: For Obama, it’s the economy, silly. If it improves unexpectedly, he could pull away, being a better campaigner and having more money raised.
If the economy falls into double recession, there will be very little to hope for, except that the Republicans nominate the love child of Herbert Hoover and Christine “I’m Not A Witch” O’Connell. Which brings us to the next thing ….
THE COULD-BES: The Flavor of the Month in the GOP is Texas Governor Rick Perry. Good-looking, macho, lots of government experience. May be the kind of guy the Republicans would love to nominate, but who might sink in a general election. He has a history of politically risky ideas about Social Security and a spotty record of criticizing Federal “waste” but cashing the check anyway. The more publicity he gets, the more the press will try to expose any hidden flaw.
And what if, by some miracle, Obama decided to not run for re-election (who could blame him, considering the abuse he’s taken?) who might be ready to pick up the party standard?
Well, if you assume Obama would only step down in the face of a financial meltdown, who would want the job? Joe Biden’s not the guy; you need someone untainted by Washington policy. I think Andrew Cuomo of New York might be the guy who’d run in 2012 with his eyes on 2016.
THE LONG-SHOTS: The rest of the GOP field looks pre-wounded.
The two women who might be a factor – Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin – have their loyalists, but are regarding pretty much as too lightweight and immoderate to win or govern.
Ron Paul is really a libertarian with a niche audience; Rudy Guiliani is damaged goods (can you imagine the GOP going for a guy who cross-dressed to march in a Gay Pride parade?), and the rest of the field are virtual unknowns outside of the ranks of political junkies.
Of course, anything can happen. In 2007, it looked like the Democrats would surely nominate Hillary Clinton. In 1967, everyone was certain the next White House race would be President Lyndon Johnson against Michigan Gov. George Romney.
But if things stay the way they are, it should be a year of “hold-the-nose” voting. Can Democrats turn their back on the first black president, no matter how bleak the economy?
Can the born-again types in the GOP stay home on Election Day because their candidate, a Mormon, belongs to a faith many of them consider to be non-Christian?
I’m not sure that 2012 will be a great year, politically, but it promises to be an interesting one.