2012: The midterms’ impact on the presidential election

Will the results of the midterm election make it easier or harder for President Obama to win re-election in 2012? What do the results mean for Sarah Palin?

This week’s “Democratic bloodbath” at the midterm elections will obviously “make it harder for President Obama to govern,” said Lynn Sweet in the Chicago Sun-Times, but it may also make it “easier for him to win re-election in 2012.” Voters finally have someone other than Obama to blame for the battered economy’s slow recovery. Even more helpful to the White House is the influx of ideologically rigid Tea Party candidates into positions of power, making it far more likely the GOP will nominate Sarah Palin or some other far-right candidate to face him in 2012. Obama has “history on his side,” said Jay Bookman in AJC.com. Presidents who lose control of Congress in their first midterms invariably win re-election; Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Bill Clinton all bounced back after absorbing a congressional drubbing. Obama’s chances of a second term are “looking better and better,” because the anger and extremism of the Tea Party–infused GOP will make Obama seem like the only “calm, rational, and reasonable” option in 2012.

Don’t believe the spin, said Edward Luce in the Financial Times. This was a “uniquely bad night” for Obama’s re-election prospects. Yes, House Republicans have now joined him as possible targets of public anger, but the fact that Democrats kept control of the Senate will “dilute Mr. Obama’s ability to ram home that message” of shared responsibility. Far worse for his 2012 prospects, though, is the loss of so many key governorships nationwide. Republican governors now control 33 of 50 states, which means not only that they’ll preside over next year’s crucial, post-census redrawing of congressional districts, but that they’ve already “robbed Mr. Obama of a sympathetic local ground force” in key swing states such as Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Sarah Palin, conversely, “will have plenty of help” if she decides to run for president, said Michael Shear in NYTimes

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.com. Palin’s endorsements produced mixed results, but she did back a whole slate of successful conservatives, including Kelly Ayotte, the new senator from New Hampshire, and Nikki Haley, the new governor of South Carolina. Come 2012, in those two vital primary states, Palin-anointed “Mama Grizzlies” can be counted on to return the favor.

Not all of Palin’s candidates won, said Josh Marshall in TalkingPointsMemo.com. In fact, you can make a “plausible argument” that through her endorsement of nutty Tea Party candidates Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, both of whom lost, Palin single-handedly blew the GOP’s chance to win back control of the Senate. Republicans who love Palin “really love her,” but the results of this election could make mainstream Republicans, and the party establishment, think twice about nominating Palin in 2012.

Palin has another problem, said Valerie Richardson in The Washington Times. GOP voters made it clear in this election that they are hungry for new ideas and “fresh faces.” Because of tremendous overexposure, Palin is no longer so fresh; neither are 2008 also-rans Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. For their coming assault on Barack Obama’s White House, Republicans might prefer to turn to Marco Rubio, the charismatic son of Cuban immigrants just elected Florida’s latest senator, or to a popular, budget-slashing governor like New Jersey’s Chris Christie or Indiana’s Mitch Daniels. Two years is a long time, but the smart money says that the next GOP presidential nominee—and perhaps our next president—will be one of the “dark horses at the starting gate.”

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