Reading the Crystal Ballot


OK, it’s time to pull on the Election Swami turban again. The one with the Magic 8-Ball in the middle, stuck on “Reply Hazy, Try Again.”

Casting my pseudo-clairvoyant powers upon the 2012 election to come, I will dare a forecast so wild, so crazy, that grown men will fall to the ground and weep. Some will cry “Hosanna!”, some will cry “Heresy!”and some will simply just cry.

Behold the vision:

Unless something changes radically in the next month, Barack Obama will probably be re-elected president.

Understand, I’m not making this prophecy out of deep affection for the president. Or out of a malicious sadism toward him, either.

This has nothing to do with the quality of his Republican opponents, who between them represent an impressively wide range of regions, backgrounds and IQ scores.

It’s not because I think the economy will suddenly produce gold and ice cream for all, or that Afghanistan will become the new Switzerland. It doesn’t even have anything to do with Joe Biden. It might well be in spite of him.

No, the source of the vision is simple. So far, President Obama lacks a significant opponent in his own party. And he’s running out of time to attract one.

And in the modern era, that’s one of the best predictors of all.

Think about it. In the modern era – say, the last 100 years or so – if an incumbent president runs for re-election and has no primary opponent, he almost always wins. If he has one that has any kind of solid support, he wins the primary, but loses the election.

Think of Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy. Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. George Bush  I and Pat Buchanan. Heck, think of William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.

The last time an incumbent president ran and lost without a major primary opponent was Herbert Hoover, mainly because popular opinion gave him full responsibility for the Great Depression. It’s possible the Great Recession might pull a sequel for President Obama – but with 80 years since the last known example, that’s far from a guaranteed bet.

If you think about it, it makes a certain amount of sense. If supporters of an incumbent president – one of the most prestigious positions in the country – are falling away, the odds aren’t good when he gets exposed to the general public again. If they hang together, he gets to spend a restful primary watching the other party’s candidates savage each other … probably while remembering the best attacks for his own campaign.

But still, one wonders: Could this be a counter-trend year? Could the results defy history? Could John Hickenlooper suddenly announce a challenge and change the landscape?

Fear not, for the Swami is prepared for all. (Shakes turban, looks carefully at it.)

“Better Not Tell You Now.”

Behold. The Swami has spoken.

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