Tuesday isn’t just about electing the leader of the free world — with all the important policy implications that entails — it’s also about (you guessed it!) politics.
The narratives that emerge after an election — the stories we tell ourselves to make it all make sense — have a huge impact. For example, the notion that Sarah Palin hurt John McCain (she didn’t) likely influenced Mitt Romney’s vice presidential selection process. For one thing, it probably made it much less likely Romney would select a female candidate.
So aside from policy implications, what narratives (and people) are have a lot on the line this Tuesday?
Here are ten potential winners and losers to keep an eye on:
1. If Barack Obama wins re-election, liberalism wins. His legacy as a liberal hero will likely be cemented. He will have eclipsed Bill Clinton (a two-termer who couldn’t pass health care reform and change the trajectory of America). More importantly, an Obama victory would embolden future liberals to embrace their ideology.
2. If Obama loses, he becomes the new Jimmy Carter — a living warning to future progressives that they should beware of fully embracing a liberal agenda.
3. Mitt Romney’s legacy is on the line, too. He can become Ronald Reagan if he wins — or Bob Dole (without the senate career) if he loses.
4. Republican soul searching is also on the line. A Romney win probably means Republicans assume all is well. This is a potentially dangerous, if ironic, result of winning. (Conversely a loss might force the GOP to reexamine its relationship with Hispanics, etc.) Speaking of soul searching, it would also be interesting to see if center right journalists and conservative bloggers enter the “veal pen” — or if they learned their lesson from the Bush years.
5. The polling industry and mainstream media have a lot on the line. If Romney wins, they will likely lose some credibility (they may be the ones doing the soul searching.) As Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel note, the mainstream media probably stands to lose no matter what. (I have argued that it is probably good for conservative media outlets if Obama wins.) But a Romney win would reinforce how out-of-touch the mainstream media are. Conversely, pundits like Dick Morris, Michael Barone, and George Will would look good. If Obama wins, complaining about “skewed polls” and blaming media bias will be out. (Nate Silver will be deified if Obama wins; If Obama loses, Silver may lose some cachet, but won’t go away.)
6. Jennifer Rubin, the conservative Washington Post blogger who spent years boosting Mitt Romney, would presumably have an inside track in a potential Romney administration (To a lesser extent, this is also true for National Review). But her influence (regarding election commentary, at least) would likely take a major hit if he loses. Conservatives may conclude it was a mistake to allow her to pick the GOP nominee.
7. Gov. Chris Christie should be praying Mitt Romney wins. The general consensus is that Christie’s effusive praise of Barack Obama’s response to Sandy helped end Mitt Romney’s momentum — and served to undermine his closing argument. If Romney loses a close race, Christie will get some of the blame (fair or not.)
8. Ohio might win — if they they once again become the swing state.
9. “Rich” guys and businessmen lose if Romney loses — especially if Ohio plays a decisive role. Past Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan — and even George W. Bush — had a sort of “populist” appeal. But if Romney fails to win enough working class white voters in Ohio, that alone could seal his defeat. All nominees these days are rich, of course. But if Romney loses, Republicans will think twice before nominating someone so susceptible to class warfare demagoguery next time.
10. Moderates win if Romney wins. But if he loses, the lesson will be that it’s a mistake for Republicans to nominate moderates based on the “electability” argument. The practical argument against nominating Republican moderates? They have to work extra hard to appear “severely conservative” in order to appease the base (this includes their vice presidential picks), which ironically prevents them from appealing to the center. Romney would join Bob Dole and John McCain as poster children for this mistake.