Seems like there’s been a lot of stuff about the 2012 election lately.  I guess things are slow enough that people feel the need for mindless speculation.  Or its withdrawal from being election obsessed for the past few months.  Clearly, I’m not immune.   Kevin Drum has a nice post pointing to the most important speculation for 2012– the economy.  Quite simply, if the economy is good, Obama will be fine; it it’s bad enough, even Sarah Palin can beat him.  I actually suspect we’ll be in an interesting middle ground where if Republicans nominate the right candidate they win and the wrong one (i.e., Palin) they lose.  Here’s the image of Ray Fair’s economic growth forecast and how it affects presidential popular vote percentage:

Modest economic recovery and right around 50% sounds about right to me.  We’ll see, of course, but 2012 could be a very interesting election.

As far as looking at the Republican field that will be very important should we see just a modest recovery, Ed Kilgore has a really nice piece in TNR.

Here’s his closing summary– which strikes me as a little harsh on the quality of the GOP field– but basically right on it its analysis:

Among the dark-horse possibilities, Tim Pawlenty is abundantly available, but he’s vulnerable to an early exit if he fails to win in Iowa. (T-Paw is also not exactly a ball of fire.) The fundraising genius Haley Barbour is magic in Washington circles, and seems to want to run, but his background as a lobbyist’s lobbyist is ill-suited to a Tea Party-driven primary season; he would seem certain to follow the path of past GOP candidates John Connolly and Phil Gramm to ignominious defeat in a sea of wasted money. John Thune has reportedly decided against a run already. Mitch Daniels called for a truce in the culture wars, which is a deadly insult to Christian conservatives. Maybe he can flip a coin with fellow Hoosier Mike Pence to see who will try to become known outside Indiana in time for 2012.

How can Republicans save themselves? The best way would arguably be for the Republican establishment to coalesce behind a least-bad dark-horse candidate as early as possible in the process. It could be easier this time because 2012 will be the first presidential election after Citizens United, and it might be the first cycle in recent memory where big sacks of shadowy outside money have an impact on the primaries. Yet it’s still a long shot, and whether the ultimate nominee is a dark horse, an insider, or an inflammatory Tea Party favorite like Palin, the nominee will still be hobbled by the demands of the incredibly excited conservative base. Advantage: Barack Obama.

If its true that Thune is out, that strikes me as good news for Obama.  I don’t really know much about the guy, but what I do, scares me.  Talk about a presidential candidate from central casting.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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