Political surprises are usually not really surprises but are usually anticipated by disregarded observers. It is interesting that the suggestion that the Democrats could lose the 2010 Congressional elections is beginning to be cited as a possibility by Democratic commentators such as Ed Kilgore. I am inclined to agree with Brendan Nyhan that the negative image of the Republican party is a serious disincentive to their prospects. The Democratic recovery in polling for the upcoming New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections is evidence that unhappy voters may halt at the prospect of actually voting Republican. Substantial Republican gains in 2010 would however make any prospect of major liberal reforms under Obama much less likely. It would however probably assist an Obama reelection in 2012 by energising Republican conservatives to nominate an unelectable candidate particularly as younger and ethnic minority voters would turn out in greater numbers. Sarah Palin would as John McCain’s chief election strategist noted be a disaster, and Huckabee’s reasonably strong performance in match-up polls against Obama is entirely misleading, like Palin he would sink like a stone after the first buzz was over. Overall there is little doubt that Obama was be president for two terms but the prospects of major liberal reform hang in the balance. By 2016 the Republicans may have returned to a more centrist approach as John McCain hopes. As for the Democrats’ overall performance Jonathon Chait’s words in April seem sadly truer than ever:
In Obama’s case, as with his predecessors, the prospective culprit is the same: Democrats in Congress, and especially the Senate. At a time when the country desperately needs a coherent response to the array of challenges it faces, the congressional arm of the Democratic Party remains mired in fecklessness, parochialism, and privilege. Obama has made mistakes, as did his predecessors. Yet the constant recurrence of legislative squabbling and drift suggests a deeper problem than any characterological or tactical failures by these presidents: a congressional party that is congenitally unable to govern.