The reporters at his news conference desperately tried to get President Barack Obama to come up with a one-word sound bite election analysis to match his “shellacking” description the last time he got, uh, shellacked, back in the 2010 midterms. But POTUS wasn’t playing. The best crumb he was willing to toss them was “The Republicans had a good night.” Then he promised that he and the GOP forces who control all of Capitol Hill would seek out compromises. Mitch McConnell had uttered the same platitudes a short time before.
Don’t hold your breath. The final quarter of the Obama presidency will involve the same go-nowhere warfare as the first three quarters. That’s because we instantly jump into the 2016 battle to see who replaces Barack Obama.
So much time, so many scenarios. For the Democrats:
Story line No. 1: Hillary runs.
Story line No. 2: Hillary doesn’t run. Chaos ensues.
Actually, if Hillary does announce that she will accept her party’s nomination, there will be quite a scramble to determine the No. 2 guy. I say “guy” because misogynists vote too, and there are a lot of them. She wouldn’t want to rub their noses in it with an all-female ticket. Pity.
Now on to the Republicans, where the free-for-all is already well under way. There are so many plausible story lines. To mention just a few:
Rand Paul is the nominee. After all, his Libertarian facade appeals to the younger voters who are turned off by government intrusion and by our institutions in general. His downside is that some of his views are pretty out there. Not as far as his father’s, mind you, but Rand is definitely a chip off the old Ron block.
Ted Cruz wins the cheap-shot battle against the other hard-right wingnuts and tries to turn the GOP presidential race into the new Crusade. The obvious advantage for him is that he appeals to his party’s religiously intolerant base. His obvious disadvantage is that he appeals to his party’s religiously intolerant base. That would scare the bejeezus out of anyone not hankering for a return to the Dark Ages.
Or, Republicans might go in the absolute opposite direction and choose the sensible candidate, say, Jeb Bush. The upside is obvious: Jeb is not a wack job. The downside is that he sure can be boring; another bummer is that we’d have a Bush-Clinton race. Been there, done that.
By the way, I’m not bothering with Chris Christie, since he’s too nasty. To wear the crown, you have to first win the “Mr. (or Ms.) Congeniality” prize. That isn’t in the cards for Christie. We will need to keep our eyes on some other governors, those who did well in this election, like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker or John Kasich of Ohio.
Whoever runs for the GOP’s nomination, you can bet that he’ll choose a female running mate. And this time, it’ll be one of the many women in the party who have a brain. Condoleezza Rice comes to mind, but if Jeb Bush is the nominee, he doesn’t need any more George W. Bush baggage than he’d already have to carry.
This is all a tad premature. In both parties, someone suddenly may arise from nowhere as a new, unstoppable force, just like Barack Obama. Furthermore, the world isn’t going to stand still. There will be new traumas and scandals … lots of them, which will serve to put one of the other candidates into a favorable or unfavorable light.
Not only that, but for the next two-plus years, it’ll be the Obama administration that will be dealing with them. To paraphrase Mark Twain: The death of Obama’s presidency is somewhat exaggerated. But short of the all-consuming crises, he won’t be center stage now in the political drama, which usually will be slapstick comedy. He insisted he wasn’t “mopey.” He should be.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.