Well, here we are — and I still have absolutely no idea who’s going to win this thing. That’s rather unusual. I have a fairly good memory of elections going back to 1972, and the only other time I had no idea who was going to win was 2000. Let’s hope we can avoid a replay of that, at least.
Even if Obama pulls this out, it will mark the first time since 1916 — Woodrow Wilson — that a first-term president has been reelected with a vastly reduced majority. And look how that turned out — war, a revived GOP, stroke and paralysis …. not an auspicious precedent. If I were Obama, I’d be tempted to concede at noon.
About the only prediction I can make with utter confidence is this — whoever wins is going to face a deeply and very evenly divided nation. Whether it’s 51-49 or 49-51 matters hugely to political professionals, pundits, seekers of government favors, and other riffraff, but it does not affect the fundamental topography of the American electorate one iota.As things stand, neither party, neither ideology, has a clear mandate. The Democrats hugely overreached in 2008 in confusing a moderate victory over an inept opponent smack in the middle of a financial panic with a “mandate” to lurch leftward. The only “mandate” Obama won in 2008 was to not be George Bush. This time around it’s pretty clear there’s going to be no “mandate” of any kind for anyone.
So, some unsolicited advice:
President Obama, if you manage to win this thing, recognize the electorate for what it is, and govern that way. Clear the campaign staff, the hyper-partisans, the Plouffes and Axelrods and Cutters, out of the White House and out of D.C. Send them all off to write books or something. Do as Clinton did — accept the fact that you only deserve to get 50-55% of what you want, and the other guys get 45-50%. If you want to avoid the debacle of a Wilsonian second term, and a Republican landslide in 2016, swallow your pride and channel Clinton.
Governor Romney, if you manage to win this thing, don’t over-reach. Do as Reagan did — pick your one or two highest winnable priorities, fight hard for those, and compromise graciously and civilly on the rest. A lot of your supporters — this one included — want some partisan payback for the past four years of scorn, derision, and insults. Resist that urge. Sending Mr. Obama off to a lucrative retirement is sufficient payback. There will be limits to what you can do. Focus on building a stronger majority for 2016.
Odds that Obama takes this advice? 0.0%. Odds that Romney does? Probably about 80%. And if you’re one of the six undecided voters left out there, that alone should be sufficient reason to vote for Romney.