With Barack Obama poised to win re-election tommorow, here's what the political world will wake up asking come Wednesday morning.
How to Solve DC's Economic Cluster...mess?
A perfect storm of budget cuts and tax increases is set to automatically kick in over the next two months. Known as the sequester this is the result of Congress' decision to tie the failure of the bipartisan Simpson/Bowles deficit reduction commission to savage cuts in everything from defense to health spending. And at the same time the Bush tax cuts are set to expire. That's why the media's moniker of "fiscal cliff" isn't actually accurate as the combination of cuts and tax increases would be healthy for the federal government's budget even while it would hurt the economy as a whole.
So the second Obama administration must carefully negotiate a deal with a divided Congress to bring in fresh revenue from the top tier of taxpayers whilst protecting the middle class from tax increases. As for spending cuts, whilst some are needed, the scale of the sequester is far too drastic and must be curtailed.
But the mess doesn't end there: Congress hasn't passed a budget for nearly a year and another dangerous showdown with Tea Party-crazed House Republicans on the debt ceiling awaits come 2013.
She's been loyal to the President and clearly has the campaigning chops. But even more important is the strategic case for Hillary. Dems are set to win tomorrow thanks to a demographic coalition known as 'the rising electorate' that comprises unusually high levels of turn out amongst hispanics, African Americans and women bolstered by battleground blue-collar workers. To hold the White House in 2016 for an extraordinary third term, Dems will need that coalition to hold together and turn out with similar enthusiasm as they achieved for the nation's first black president. That argues for a candidate who can inspire all of those groups. And so with all due respect to some fine smart white males like Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley or Virginia Senator Mark Warner, Dems probably need someone special. In fact, the long term electoral legacy of 2012 may well be: whither the white male in Presidential politics?
Ryan vs Rubio?
Facing the 'rising electorate' of minorities, young voters and women that favour the Democrats, Republicans may well turn to the star of their Tampa Convention, Senator Marco Rubio. Young, Hispanic, Conservative: his nomination is the logical choice. But Romney's loss will cause conservatives to rage that they were betrayed again by the top of the ticket and that for the second time running the true conservative soul of the Grand Old Party was only represented by their vice presidential nominee. 'No more!' they'll shout and demand their due. And it's Romney running mate Paul Ryan who may well be best placed to tap into this anger: his impeccable social conservative creds combined with his budget hawk profile gives him a strong starting powerbase. The fight will be fascinating.
What's a second term for?
Against a split Congress and having won a tough election more by defeating Romney then spelling out his forward offer, a huge question for the next four years is, well, just what is it for? In terms of legacy proper, the administration needs to implement Obamacare which only really comes online in 2014 but that's more for the bureaucracy then the White House. So what does President Obama use his four years for: an Israeli/Palestinian peace deal? Climate change and energy independence? Or education (given that the stand out promise of his Charlotte acceptance speech was his 100,000 new teachers pledge)?
Will politics get better pundits?
Lastly, and at the risk of being too inside-baseball, the frankly pathetic standard of coverage displayed by most of the mainstream media particularly in the weeks following the first debate, is a matter for grave reflection. In the face of clear statistical evidence of the president's likely victory the press conspired to call the race "to close to call" or "a tie". The question is, will future pundits more closely resemble NBC's Joe 'anyone who thinks this isn't a toss up is an idiot' Scarborough or 538's über-nerd Nate Silver? Sadly, as long as political coverage is dominated by those more accustomed to passing judgement based upon gut instinct and cosy in-crowd gossip then multiple datasets with hypotheses tested against reality, I fear that at least for a few years yet we know the answer to this question.