And If the GOP Doesn't Win, What Then?

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Nobody knows what's going to happen on Tuesday. (11 p.m. Saturday update: But watching a completely-losing-his-voice Bill Clinton do a barnburner in his intro for Barack Obama in Virginia, I'm seeing an episode of Democratic "momentum.") (And nice line in return from Obama just now: "The only Clinton workin' harder than him is our Secretary of State.")

But let's do a thought experiment and assume that current probabilities hold. That would mean that Barack Obama is reelected; the Romney-Ryan ticket is defeated; and even as the Republicans begin assessing their promising next tier of Christie-Rubio-Jindal-maybe Ryan-maybe Jeb Bush candidates for 2016, they confront two discouraging realities. One is not having been able to beat a marginally popular president during a time of widespread economic distress. The other is seeing several big demographic blocs -- Latinos, blacks, women -- moving away from them.

What then? We're getting ahead of ourselves, but as a distraction here are several messages from readers. First, from someone in the aviation world:

Presuming Mr. Obama does indeed win, I think the more interesting question is what will the Republican party do to regroup?...

The question in my mind is "is this the end of the Karl Rove Party?"  He pioneered the strategy of shifting the party right to get an energized "base," also shifting it toward the new Know-Nothings they've become. [JF note: Rove and GWB also were careful to try to include Latinos as part of a new GOP big tent. That worked for them in Texas but has not lasted with their Tea Party-era, Tancredo-toned successors, which could prove one of the party's lasting vulnerabilities.]

It hasn't won.  Laura Ingraham's "if the GOP can't beat Obama with this economy, shut it down" strikes me as unintentionally prophetic.  The economy is now improving, Obama will never run again, and demographic trends are certainly against the current Republican message. What will the Republicans do?

The existence of the Tea Party faction makes this a nasty problem -- any attempt by Republicans to pivot toward the mainstream will cost them factional challenges, perhaps third-party rightist candidates on the ballot.

Extending the last argument, a reader in Pennsylvania writes:

I can't pretend to know what motivates folks like Karl Rove, but I can say with certainty, as a Democratic committeeperson here in suburban Philly, that one thing that does motivate the Democratic ground game here in Pennsylvania is the sense that an Obama victory and some key US Senate victories for Democrats could lead to the splitting apart of the Republican Party, with a possible 3rd Party movement on the right getting legs. 

As Democrats we see that possible development as an obvious opening for us to pick up more Democratic victories down ballot in the next two or three elections here in PA and also in some red states.   This "long term" perspective is a very tangible motivator as we all participate in GOTV efforts here in PA over the next 3 days. 

On a final note, in the midst of all the challenges facing America right now, any long drawn out effort to delegitimize Obama victory through Congress, in particular, will, in my humble opinion, only benefit Democrats in the mid-terms. 

And from a reader in California:

As we come down to the wire, I sticking with my premise/intuition that 1972 will repeat in 2012.

The only doubt is whether the Dems can regain enough seats to take the house. [JF note: I am chary of predictions, but this seems very unlikely to me.] Otherwise, Obama wins well and the Senate holds, and gains a few, like Elizabeth Warren. [JF: pickups, like Warren over Brown, seem plausible at this point; net Democratic gains in the Senate a much longer shot.]

From all that I've read, the moderate middle (i.e. that which is not counted as the base) will mostly go to Obama. That may not include older white men, but women and minorities will more than make up for them. This despite Republican efforts to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as possible by jiggering state voting rules.

It's not that I have some special knowledge that others don't. But I've voted in every election but one since 1968, and what stands out strongly in my memory are what I call, for lack of better term, the extremist years, when one party leaned far much in one direction, which for the moderate middle was too far away from them.

Obviously, and unendurably, the "who looks good for the 2016 race???" speculation will rev up before we have even recovered from this cycle. I am explicitly not trying to get into next-candidate thinking on either side. But the next identity of the Republican party is what a lot of people will be wrestling with, no matter how things go in three days. (And now, back to checking out that Virginia rally.)

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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