The estimable Peter Wehner offers his predictions for tomorrow and beyond:
On Tuesday, Democrats will suffer an epic defeat — worse even than in 1946, when Republicans gained 12 Senate seats and 55 House seats. The GOP will pick up at least 73 House seats, 10 Senate seats, and eight governorships. The GOP’s turnout will be huge and independents will break massively for Republican candidates across the country. Among Democrats, this will trigger despair and bitter recriminations. President Obama will immediately be placed on probation by his own party and may well face a serious primary challenge, just as Jimmy Carter did in 1979.
As Democrats sort through the rubble caused by Tuesday’s landslide — even Wisconsin will become a red state — they will realize what many of us have warned them of for quite some time: Barack Obama and his agenda are having a Kevorkian-like effect on the Democratic Party. If the economy doesn’t noticeably improve by next fall — and, at this stage, there are no signs that it will — more and more Democrats will find it in their self-interest to detach themselves from Obama. And Team Obama’s political strategy this cycle — in which they never settled on a consistent narrative beyond attacking huge swaths of the American people as being ignorant, unappreciative, and tinged with racism — will be judged as one of the most inept in American history.
The next two years will feature stalemate and confrontation between Capitol Hill and the White House. President Obama, unlike Bill Clinton, is not likely to tack to the center. Mr. Clinton was a New Democrat; Mr. Obama has shown himself to be a man of the left, through and through. The class of 2010 will be less interested in compromise with the president than the class of 1994. And the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, will have far less latitude to strike deals than did Newt Gingrich.
In 2011, Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, will emerge as one of the five most important Republicans on Capitol Hill. Marco Rubio will become a GOP superstar. And wise Republicans will promote governors as the face of the Republican Party, reassuring both independents and conservatives who are skeptical about Congressional Republicans and their capacity to govern well.
The danger for Barack Obama is that in the wake of his party’s crushing defeat, he will show little genuine self-reflection. The president, David Axelrod, and Valerie Jarrett may well comfort themselves by telling each other, especially in their private moments, that the public — gripped by fear, irrationality, and a touch of bigotry — was not able to comprehend Obama’s true greatness. Tuesday’s results will be interpreted as a “communications” failure and laid at the feet of a bad economy, which (they will insist) Obama has nothing to do with.
In point of fact, the American people are seeing things for what they are. And if Mr. Obama continues to rationalize his party’s comeuppance by making excuses, blaming others, and lashing out at his “enemies,” the president’s problems — already enormous — will multiply.
Barack Obama’s political world is about to be rocked. We’ll see how he reacts to it.
Pete’s predictions for the election seem quite plausible to me, though I’d probably err on the side of “caution” and predict a pick-up of nine Senate seats and a few shy of 70 in the House.
Pete’s post-election predictions seem spot on. I don’t see Obama tacking towards the center. He will view the electoral defeat as the product of what he has already described — public irrationality in the face of a bad economy. He will bet his political future on significant improvement of the economy.
If the economy improves significantly, Obama’s political position will, indeed, improve. But so will the position of congressional Republicans, since the electorate probably will view the improvement as due in part to its decision to rein in Obama and his fellow left-liberals.
If the economy does not improve significantly in 2011, Obama may well face a serious challenge from within his party. How he, or some other Democrat, fares in 2012 will depend in part on how the economy is doing that year and in part on what happens within the Republican Party.
The latter topic is for another day. But I agree with Pete that Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio will likely emerge as major players, along with some of the Repubican governors including Chris Christie.
UPDATE: Jim Geraghty is predicting a pick-up of 70 seats in the House. Looking through his state-by-state run-down, I see little if any excessive optimism in Geraghty’s calls in the House races I have some familiarity with ( Michigan, for example).