Well, let’s be clear, for the Democrats to miraculously win both chambers of Congress in November, it would require a more serious wound than the GOP shooting itself in the foot. Both parties shoot each of their members in both feet almost as a requirement for taking your seat in the House and Senate; so, it’s definitely not happening.
But, yes, if Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, President Obama would still have time to get some things done — roughly from the day the new Congressional session began (January 3, 2015) until the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the summer of 2016. After the nominating conventions, all eyes turn to the general election, of course, but more crucially, members of Congress (particularly the House since all members face re-election) focus on their own campaigns and get very cautious. But for those 18 months or so, the President could definitely get some things done, and would be smart to push through immigration reform and try to shore up the liberal side of the Supreme Court since it’s up-in-the-air who the next President will be and it’s impossible to say whether there would be favorable conditions for confirmation in the 115th Congress that starts in 2017.
It’s not happening, though. And, conversely, if the Republicans win both chambers of Congress on November 4th, President Obama becomes a lame-duck President before he eats breakfast on the morning of November 5th.
Jeb Bush is the GOP’s best bet, and he’s probably only a little bit better of a bet than simply nominating Mitt Romney again. The GOP is in trouble in the Electoral College; to be honest, I don’t think they have anybody who is a registered Republican that can actually win a general election because the Electoral College math doesn’t look like it will add up (in my opinion, of course). I still think Jon Huntsman could win a general election if he was nominated early and the rest of the country became familiar with him, but Huntsman can’t win the GOP nomination,
Christie can’t win the nomination, either, and he wouldn’t win a general election against Clinton, Biden, or O’Malley, and one of those three people will be the Democratic candidate in 2016.
Anybody else might win the nomination, but they’ll be hammered in the Electoral College. Rick Perry is rebuilding himself pretty well and the “border crisis” will help him with Republicans because he can be seen to be standing up to a highly-unpopular President at a very advantageous time. He also has plenty of opportunities to make people forget about 2012, and once we’re in the middle of the Presidential campaign cycle and things start ramping up for the primaries, 2012 will seem like a lifetime ago, so Perry has a shot at the nomination. But he can’t win the general election. Nobody in the GOP can — and nobody will, unless there’s some drastic movement between now-and-then that makes some of the traditional battleground states less battlegroundey (I’m trademarking that word) and more likely to swing to Republicans. I hate to sound like a predatory political strategist, but women are the key in battleground states, and women aren’t switching sides for any of the potential 2016 contenders we’re hearing about on the Republican side.
You know what’s crazy? President Obama is…let’s be honest…basically a lame-duck already. I know people like me still have hope and we’re desperately trying to fight that perception, but this isn’t the point in Presidential Administrations were Presidents traditionally bounce back from being stuck in the doldrums. But even if the Republicans win both houses of Congress in November (definitely possible) and have a lame-duck President from Election Day 2014 until Election Day 2016, they are still going to need a really big play to make the Electoral College work in their favor. In fact, winning both chambers of Congress and having a lame-duck President could hurt them even worse in 2016 because they won’t have anybody to blame. Right now, the House Republicans can blame the Senate and say, “Hey, we passed such-and-such bill and the Senate killed it.” Congress is more unpopular than it was at the point in history where states were seceding and their Representatives and Senators were standing up to give farewell addresses where they basically gave shout-outs to the South, recited love poems to slavery, dissed Abraham Lincoln, and then dropped the microphone. Currently, the American people see that and say Congress sucks but distribute their hatred towards Congress equally because one chamber is run by the Republicans and one chamber is run by Democrats. If that changes and Republicans control both chambers, they’ll be perceived (even more so than now) as obstructionists because of how terrible the Legislative Branch that they control is. Sure, they can blame Obama, but they’ve been doing that since 2009. We’re numb to it. And if he’s a lame-duck and Republicans SAY he’s a lame-duck and then scream about how he’s not doing anything, a big part of the electorate will just automatically respond with, “Of course he’s not doing anything…he’s a lame-duck. Oh, and you control both chambers of Congress, so this is pretty much all your fault.”
If I were a Republican strategist, I would have done the political version of tanking in the NBA. There have recently been NBA teams who are in the “rebuilding stages” and it has been suggested those some of those teams are not putting out the best possible combinations of players during the season and making it more difficult to win because the worse your team is, the more ping-pong balls you get for the NBA Draft Lottery, ideally raising your chances of winning said Draft Lottery and getting the top pick in the NBA Draft. If your team does that for a couple of years, it’s hoped that the team will draft better players and be able to build a young, successful team from scratch. If I were a GOP political strategist, I’d look at the current landslide and tank in 2014 — I’d try to lose both chambers of Congress and then spend the next two years blaming the Democratic Congress and the Democratic President for being awful and then make it seem as if the Republicans are riding to the rescue in 2016. You give up two years of nothing for four-to-eight years of everything. Both sides are responsible for the condition we’re in now and the political climate in the country (and I don’t just mean the politicians from both sides, either; many regular Americans are also at fault). But perception means everything in politics and most Americans don’t look deeply enough at the issues or the responses to those issues to accurately and fairly understand them. So that all-or-nothing (or, I guess it would be a “nothing-to-attain-all”) situation would be the way to go. If I were a Republican strategist. But I am not. A Republican. Strategist.
I think it is going to be close. Very close — probably 51/49 or possibly even a tie. But I think the Democrats will hold on. To me, the Senate seats that are the major toss-ups which will go down to the wire are Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Alaska. All four of those seats are held by Democratic incumbents and it’s going to take everything they have to hold on to their seats and save the Senate for the Democrats.
Of those four races, I think Senator Pryor (Arkansas) and Senator Begich (Alaska) will hold on to their seats, Senator Landrieu (Louisiana) will lose, and the North Carolina seat is almost too close to even guess at, but if forced to, I’d say that Senator Hagan barely squeaks out a victory. Assuming everything else goes as expected, that would put the Senate at 51-49 in the favor of the Democrats (there are two independents in the Senate but they both caucus with the Dems). Fortunately for the Democrats, even if there is a tie in the Senate, they’ll remain in control because Vice President Biden would be responsible for breaking any ties.
By the way, if the Republicans gain control of both the House and the Senate on November 4th, Barack Obama becomes a lame-duck President on November 5th.
I’m pretty sure that I don’t remember what it’s like to not live in the midst of an all-encompassing political campaign. Then again, considering how campaigns seem to begin earlier and earlier in 21st Century American politics, I wouldn’t be surprised if the midterm cycle kicks off this afternoon.
(P.S.: I better not see stories about potential 2016 Presidential candidates until AT LEAST Inauguration Day. In a perfect world, we’d be safe from starting that discussion until late-2014.)