Commentary Magazine


Whoa, Obama’s Not Down for the Count Yet!

Larry Sabato, who is not given to wild predictions, writes:

Obama may be able to count on the 200 electoral votes in the Democratic states, but if his reelection had been scheduled last week, he might well have lost every swing state—all of which he won in 2008. After all, most Republican candidates for top offices did quite well in every swing state on November 2. If you combine the 158 electoral votes in these swing states with the 180 votes in the solidly Republican states, the GOP nominee would have 338, far more than the 270 needed for election. (The chart’s electoral votes are based on the new expected allocation from the 2010 Census.) … There’s only one logical conclusion to be drawn: President Barack Obama is down for the count, will have an early lame duck presidency, and will be out of the White House in two years.

OK, I’m not going there yet. Obama could, for example, embrace radical spending cuts, win a standoff with Iran, and see unemployment drop to low single digits. Well, he could. Or the Republicans could nominate someone so objectionable that they alienate independent voters. (Hence, the effort to find Mr. Right — Chris Christie? Paul Ryan?)

Sabato’s answer is that Obama can’t realign himself to become acceptable again to a majority of voters. (“Barack Obama lacks the political skills necessary to adjust to the new realities of divided government. Unlike Bill Clinton, Obama is an inflexible liberal who couldn’t find the center with both hands, even if his career depended on it.”)

To all this, conservatives can only say “Amen.” But before they start ordering a rug to replace the history-challenged one on the Oval Office floor, they should keep in mind two things. First, the GOP is entirely capable of nominating candidates that turn off key swing voters. Harry Reid, Michael Bennet, and Chris Coons suddenly became highly electable when their opponents proved problematic. Second, I wouldn’t yet underestimate Obama. He’s already talking compromise on the Bush tax cuts and erasing the Afghanistan-war troop deadline.

Sabato may be correct, but we won’t know for a while. And Republicans, unless they want to spend another term outside the White House, had better find the most principled conservative who is electable. The lesson of 2010 is that not every Republican is.

UPDATE: Larry Sabato says it’s all a parody. Well, the danger for Republicans is that they take this talk all too seriously.