I wanted to take a quick break from the day-to-day primary and caucus coverage–it resumes in earnest when I head for New Hampshire Friday–to do my first post predicting what’s going to happen in politics in 2012.
Predictions, of course, must be taken with more than a few grains of salt, but they’re fun and make us look at things in a broader perspective. So, here we go.
- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president. That’s not so bold at this point, but I first said it last July and nothing has changed since: Romney simply has the best organization and the most money to last for the long haul, and the electability argument ultimately will be decisive.
- He will choose a social conservative as his running mate, someone like Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal or Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, to bring the GOP’s Christian conservative base to the voting booth. The two most popular candidates with the media–Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio–strike me as a bit too inexperienced to take the number two slot, and Romney will be very careful to avoid the huge mistake Sen. John McCain made in choosing Gov. Sarah Palin.
- President Barack Obama will win re-election narrowly, simply because of his superb re-election team, the residual feelings of likeability much of the public has for him, and Romney’s need to go far to the right to win the GOP’s nod. But it depends on three things: The economy has to keep improving; Romney must face a more protracted fight to keep him from focusing on the general election right away, and the president must avoid “black swan” events like last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami that could throw us all for a loop. In other words, he’ll need a lot of luck to win. This could be another Bush v. Gore election, minus the hanging chads, I hope.
- Republicans will narrowly take over the Senate while maintaining their majority in the House of Representatives, but by a much slimmer margin. There are just too many Democratic Senate seats in play–23 vs. ten Republican seats–and too many retirements for Democrats to maintain control. In the House, Tea Party Republicans will face a backlash because of last summer’s debt ceiling fiasco, and they will lose their cushy lead but not their majority.
- French President Nikolas Sarkozy will lose his bid for re-election, facing competition from a revived Socialist Party and a strong protest vote for right-wing candidate Marine LePen. Socialist candidate Francois Hollande will ultimately prevail, but the continuing European financial crisis will cause France to lose its AAA credit rating later this year.
- Whether it happens this year or next, we could face a very big international crisis, most likely in either Korea or Iran. I’d bet on Iran, where European countries are tightening sanctions amid reports Iran is moving ahead with its nuclear program. The US and Israel have been in a covert war with Iran for years–they haven’t even denied their involvement with the Stuxnet virus that debilitated computers at Iran’s nuclear facility, and several top Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated. But at some point Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may attack Iranian nuclear sites the way Israel did with Iraq and Syria. Israel will probably have US support but not its overt participation for such a move–unless Mitt Romney or former Sen. Rick Santorum wins the presidency.
Happy New Year and on to New Hampshire!